Chinese Novelist Mo Yan Wins the Nobel Prize for Literature

By posted at 8:00 am on October 11, 2012 9

China has its first literary Nobel Laureate as the prize has gone to 57-year-old novelist Mo Yan. Yan is said to make use of magical realism and satire in addressing China’s recent history. His books have been frequently banned in China and “Mo Yan” is a pen name meaning “don’t speak.” Yan’s given name is Guan Moye.

coverDuring our Year in Reading last year, author Alex Shakar wrote about Yan’s novel Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out.

Yan’s style here is maximalistic, headlong, sloppy to be sure, but bursting with life; or rather, lives — human and otherwise. A Chinese landowner is executed at the dawn of the Cultural Revolution, and the story follows him literally to hell and back, again and again as he’s reborn in a progression of animal incarnations. Each time, he winds up near his former family and participates in its dramas, goes on animal adventures, and witnesses the hardships, cruelties, and absurdities of life in China over the last half-century. Mo Yan himself shows up as a character from time to time.

Yan’s other books available in English include:

Red Sorghum (which was made into a feature film)
The Garlic Ballads
Big Breasts & Wide Hips
The Republic of Wine
Shifu, You’ll Do Anything for a Laugh
Explosions and Other Stories
Forthcoming in January: Pow!
He also has a story in the collection of Chinese short fiction Chairman Mao Would Not Be Amused


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9 Responses to “Chinese Novelist Mo Yan Wins the Nobel Prize for Literature”

  1. elle
    at 8:37 am on October 11, 2012

    James Wood is going to have a bad morning.

  2. Simon Collinson
    at 8:53 am on October 11, 2012

    Yan may be the first laureate who is a current resident of China, but he is not the first literature laureate writing in Chinese; that honour belongs to Gao Xingjian, who won the prize in 2000.

  3. Simon Collinson
    at 8:57 am on October 11, 2012

    That said, Yan seems like a really intriguing writer and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into his work. Can anyone recommend a good place to start?

  4. Chinese Novelist Mo Yan Wins the Nobel Prize for Literature – Todd Library: Featured Resources Blog
    at 9:44 am on October 11, 2012

    […] The Millions : Chinese Novelist Mo Yan Wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. […]

  5. Jack M
    at 9:55 am on October 11, 2012

    Life and Death is a great novel; try that one.

  6. Andreas Moser
    at 10:09 am on October 11, 2012

    I am calling for the help of those who have read one or more of Mo Yan’s books. With which book to start if I want to get an impression of this writer: ?

  7. Afternoon Bites: Paula Fox Book Club, Converge’s Latest, Cinematic “Just Kids,” and More | Vol. 1 Brooklyn
    at 1:28 pm on October 12, 2012

    […] The Millions has a good introduction to Mo Yan’s books. […]

  8. Barnstorm | Wednesday Linkstorm
    at 4:41 pm on October 17, 2012

    […] Yan has become the first Chinese author to win the Nobel Prize for literature. Now let’s all blush and feel embarrassed by our inadequate educations and then go read Mo […]

  9. Lit News Round-up: 13 October 2012 | Litro
    at 7:46 pm on November 19, 2012

    […] yard stick of anything; are the only good British writers the ones who speak out against the war?" The Millions has a round-up of Mo Yan's […]

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