Mo greeted the prize with characteristic low-key indifference.
“Whether getting it or not, I don’t care,” he said in a telephone interview with CCTV Thursday from Gaomi. He said he goes to his childhood hometown every year around this time to read, write and visit his elderly father.
“I’ll continue on the path I’ve been taking, feet on the ground, describing people’s lives, describing people’s emotions, writing from the standpoint of the ordinary people,” said Mo, whose real name is Guan Moye.
Among the works highlighted by the Nobel judges were Red Sorghum (1993), The Garlic Ballads (1995) and Big Breasts & Wide Hips (2004).
‘His writing appeals to all your senses’—Peter Englund, Swedish Academy
“For me personally it’s the realization of a dream I’ve had for years finally coming true, it’s suddenly a reality, but what I mainly want to say is congratulations to Mo Yan,” said Cao Yuanyong, deputy editor-in-chief of Shanghai Literature and Art Publishing House, which has published much of Mo’s work.
Cao said he and a dozen colleagues were toasting Mo with red wine in a Shanghai restaurant Thursday night.
The reception of the award in China contrasted with the reactions when jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, which infuriated China. That was the last time a Chinese national won a Nobel Prize.
The communist leadership also disowned the Nobel when Gao Xingjian won the literature award in 2000 for his absurdist dramas and inventive fiction. Gao’s works are laced with criticisms of China’s communist government and have been banned in China.
Garrulous by nature, Mo has said the name, meaning “don’t speak,” was intended to remind him to hold his tongue lest he get himself into trouble and to mask his identity since he began writing while serving in the army.
His breakthrough came with novel Red Sorghum published in 1987. Set in a small village, like much of his fiction, Red Sorghum is an earthy tale of love and peasant struggles set against the backdrop of the anti-Japanese war. It was turned into a film that won the top prize at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1988, marked the directing debut of Zhang Yimou and boosted Mo’s popularity.
Mo writes of visceral pleasures and existential quandaries and tends to create vivid, mouthy characters. While his early work stuck to a straight-forward narrative structure enlivened by vivid descriptions and raunchy humour, Mo has become more experimental, toying with different narrators and embracing a free-wheeling style often described as “Chinese magical realism.”
“His writing appeals to all your senses,” Peter Englund of the Swedish Academy said.
Mo was a somewhat unexpected choice for the Nobel jury, which has been criticized for being too euro-centric. Still, his name was among those getting the lowest odds on betting sites before the announcements.
European authors had won four of the past five awards, with last year’s prize going to Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer. As with the other Nobel Prizes, the prize is worth 8 million kronor, or nearly $ 1.2 million Cdn.
The Nobel Prizes were established in the will of Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, and have been handed out since 1901.