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
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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisisi
X
March 06, 2015 12:28 AM
There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Winter Weather Strikes Eastern US...Again!

A new wintry blast has hit more than 20 states in the U.S. Midwest and Mid-Atlantic region, adding more snow to the piles from previous storms. Tired of shoveling snow, breaking the ice and dealing with accidents, flight delays and property damage, most Americans hope this is the last bout of cold for the season. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Myanmar's Traditional Fashion Choices Endure

The sartorial choices of Myanmar’s men and women quickly catch the eye of any visitor to the tropical Southeast Asian country. But at a time when Myanmar’s political and economic opening is bringing affordable western fashions to the masses, will the country’s unique fashion trends endure? VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Yangon explores that question.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More