October 12, 2012
Chinese Nobel Laureate Mo Hopes for Liu Xiaobo's Release
This year's Nobel prize winner for literature, Chinese author Mo Yan, is praised by admirers for his creativity and criticized by others for avoiding offending authorities. However, the author whose pen name means "Don't Speak" broke his silence on Friday and voiced his hope that jailed compatriot Liu Xiaobo - who won the Nobel Peace Prize two years ago and remains behind bars - would soon be freed.
Less than a day after receiving the Nobel Literature Prize, Mo Yan told reporters gathered in his hometown of Gaomi, that he hoped that Liu Xiaobo could "achieve his freedom as soon as possible."
In comments likely to be difficult for China's ruling leaders to accept, Mo said Liu should be able to carry on his work. He also hit back at his critics.
Mo said that those who have criticized him in the past have not read his books and do understand that when they were written he took on a great deal of risk and pressure.
Mo is the vice president of the China Writers Association and a member of the Communist Party.
When Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize two years ago, China criticized the decision calling it a desecration of the prize.
At that time the author shied away from commenting on Liu's imprisonment and was sharply criticized for his refusal to speak up.
So far, China has rejoiced in the news of Mo Yan's success. And unlike its response to Liu Xiaobo, Chinese newspapers put Mo Yan's story high on their front pages, and called the decision a "historic win."
Asked about this stark contrast, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the wide praise of Mo was because of his great reputation in China.
Hong Lei says Mo Yan's literary achievements are well known to all. Hong Lei says that two years ago the Norwegian Nobel committee made a decision which seriously interfered in China's internal affairs and violated China's judicial sovereignty. Lei says authorities had every right to firmly oppose that decision.
Among Mo's critics is artist and activist Ai Weiwei, who on Friday called the Nobel decision "shameful" because he says Mo Yan cooperates with China's system that Ai says is "constantly poisoning" its people.
Zhang Lijia, a Chinese writer who is based in Beijing says that while Mo Yan may have made compromises during his career, she disagrees with his critics.
"I don't agree with such views and personally I resent the over-politicization of literature," said Zhang. "I think that literature should be treated as literature. For many years in China literature has been very politicized, it is part of a propaganda tool, literature should be just literature and his receiving of the award should just be based on literary merits."
Zhang says she hopes Mo Yan's prestigious award brings some vitality to China's literary scene, which lags behind the country's economic achievements.
Howard Goldblatt, the man who has translated many of Mo Yan's major works into English and helped the author reach a broader audience overseas says it was Mo Yan's life, growing up in northern Shandong's Gaomi that helped give rise to his gift of storytelling.
Goldblatt says that while Mo Yan dropped out of school at the age of 10 and grew up in poor surroundings, it was the stories his grandfather and uncles told him that served as his primary education and source of inspiration.
"These wonderful tales, all of which he's kept in his memory, all these years, tales of the fantastic, tales of the absurd, tales of boys and girls, these star crossed lovers," said Goldblatt. "And those have been the core, that and his place, the place where he grew up, Gong Mi."
Goldblatt says that like the American author William Faulkner, Mo Yan's home town is the setting for virtually all of his novels.