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Nobel Prize glory for Chinese author Mo Yan

Chinese writer Mo Yan has won the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature, reports the BBC. Born Guan Moye, he writes under the pen name of Mo Yan, which translates as “don’t speak” in Chinese.

The 57-year-old began writing while working as a soldier in the Chinese army and was first published in 1981. He is best known for the novel, Red Sorghum: A Novel of China. Mo Yan is the first Chinese resident to win the prize. Chinese-born Gao Xingjian won in 2000, but he is a French citizen.

Falling Rain on a Spring Night was his debut novel but Mo Jan is also a prolific writer of short stories.

He has written about a variety of subjects, including the Cultural Revolution. A novel called Big Breasts and Wide Hips sparked controversy in 1995 for its sexual content and storyline about the struggles within the Communist Party, which banned the book.

Mo Yan’s latest novel is called Frog and concerns China’s single child population control policy. Other books include The Garlic Ballads – a novel about a revolt amongst garlic farmers – and Shifu, You’ll Do Anything for a Laugh– a collection of eight dark stories. In 2008, a novel called Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out was widely praised – it’s a surreal story of a landowner who is executed in 1948 and then endures Hell before being reborn again and again as the animals in the Chinese Zodiac.

Another interesting book is Change – a highly political novel that is autobiographical and covers much of the political upheaval in China.

The Guardian wrote about how the award will be received in China:

In his 30-year writing career, Mo Yan has gained a reputation for speaking out with uncommon directness on the absurdities and corruption of modern China. Born in 1955, he won celebrity during the mid- to late-80s, participating in two key developments in the post-Mao literary thaw that, together, transformed the imaginative landscapes of mainland writing: the root-seeking and avant-garde movements. The root-seekers opened up fiction to influences from Chinese traditional culture and aesthetics, countering decades of anti-traditionalism both before and after the communist revolution of 1949. The experimental avant-garde writers, meanwhile, released literary form and content from the stranglehold of socialist realism.

The Chinese author is the 109th recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, won in 2011 by Swedish poet Tomas Transtroemer.


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