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".
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

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid