News / Asia

China's Mo Yan Wins Nobel Literature Prize

Chinese writer Mo Yan smiles during an interview at his house in Beijing December 24, 2009. Mo Yan won the 2012 Nobel prize for literature on October 11, 2012 for works which the awarding committee said had qualities of "hallucinatory realism".
Chinese writer Mo Yan smiles during an interview at his house in Beijing December 24, 2009. Mo Yan won the 2012 Nobel prize for literature on October 11, 2012 for works which the awarding committee said had qualities of "hallucinatory realism".
TEXT SIZE - +
VOA News
Chinese author Mo Yan has won the Nobel Prize in Literature for work that the prize committee says has qualities of "hallucinatory realism."

The Royal Swedish Academy in Stockholm on Thursday announced the winner of the prestigious prize, which is worth $1.2 million.

"The Nobel Prize in literature for 2012 is awarded to the Chinese writer Mo Yan, who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary,'' said Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy Peter Englund.

Englund said the academy contacted Mo before the prize was announced.

"He said he was overjoyed and scared," Englund said.

Mo is the first Chinese national to win the Nobel literature prize, but he is not the first Chinese-language writer to do so.  A Chinese emigre to France, Gao Xingjian, won in 2000.  His works criticize China's communist government and have been banned in China.   

Premier Chinese author

Mo is one of China's top contemporary authors.  His writings draw on his youthful experiences and on settings in the region where he was born - Shandong province in northeastern China.

2012 Nobel Prize in Literature

Mo Yan


  • Born in 1955, grew up in Shandong province in northeastern China.
  • First short story published in a literary journal in 1981.
  • Breakthrough work was Touming de hong loubo, first published in Chinese in 1986.
  • Seen as one of the foremost contemporary authors in China.
  • The Royal Swedish Academy said his work "with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary."
This is apparent in his 1987 novel, Hong Gaoliang Jiazu, which was published in English as Red Sorghum in 1993.  The book is about the brutal violence that plagued the eastern China countryside during China's Communist Revolution in the 1920s and 1930s.  It includes depictions of bandit culture, Japanese occupation and the harsh conditions endured by farm workers. 

That story was later made into an acclaimed movie by leading Chinese director Zhang Yimou.

His other significant works include Big Breasts and Wide Hips, Republic of Wine and Life and Death are Wearing Me Out.

The Royal Swedish Academy compared him to two other notable authors of the 20th century, American William Faulkner and Colombian Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

"Through a mixture of fantasy and reality, historical and social perspectives, Mo Yan has created a world reminiscent in its complexity of those in the writings of William Faulkner and Gabriel García Márquez, at the same time finding a departure point in old Chinese literature and in oral tradition," the academy said in a statement.  "In addition to his novels, Mo Yan has published many short stories and essays on various topics, and despite his social criticism is seen in his homeland as one of the foremost contemporary authors."

Mo Yan is a pen name that means "Don't Speak."

Studied literature in 1970s

The 57-year-old author, whose real name is Guan Moye, was born in 1955 and grew up in Gaomi in Shandong province.  His parents were farmers.  As a 12-year-old during China's Cultural Revolution, he left school to work, first in agriculture and later in a factory.

In 1976, he joined China's People's Liberation Army and began to study literature and write.

His first short story was published in a literary journal in 1981.  His breakthrough came in 1986 with the novella Touming de Hong Luobo, published in French as Le Radis de Cristal in 1993.

Nobel prize announcements began on Monday, with the medicine award going to stem cell researchers John Gurdon of Britain and Japan's Shinya Yamanaka. Frenchman Serge Haroche and American David Wineland won the physics prize on Tuesday for work on quantum particles.

Americans Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka won the chemistry prize on Wednesday.

The prestigious Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

You May Like

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid