News / Asia

Chinese Nobel Writer Takes on Critics

Mo Yan speaks at the Royal Swedish Academy in Stockholm December 7, 2012.Mo Yan speaks at the Royal Swedish Academy in Stockholm December 7, 2012.
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Mo Yan speaks at the Royal Swedish Academy in Stockholm December 7, 2012.
Mo Yan speaks at the Royal Swedish Academy in Stockholm December 7, 2012.
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William Ide
Chinese Nobel laureate Mo Yan lashed out at his critics during his Nobel lecture to the Royal Swedish Academy, just days before he receives the prestigious international award.  Criticisms of the author and what some argue is his support of China’s authoritarian government have been increasing in the run up to Monday’s Nobel award ceremony.

Since he arrived in Stockholm, Mo Yan’s march toward his Nobel award has been very much a balancing act, with some supporting the author’s long-held argument that he is independent, and others casting him as a pawn for the Chinese government.
 
There have been those who hoped he would say more about the plight of Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese citizen who launched a manifesto for democratic change called Charter 08. Liu received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 and continues to serve an 11-year sentence for his crime of speaking out.
 
China blacked out any coverage of Liu’s award, however, in China’s state-run media, Mo Yan has been treated like a national hero.
 
Herta Miller, the 2009 winner of the Nobel literature prize has called the jury’s choice of Mo Yan a “catastrophe.”
 
But there are those who argue that Mo Yan's work has been critical of Chinese government policies.

Mo's defense
 
In his speech, Mo Yan argued the criticisms are more about what others think about him and not who he really is.
 
Mo Yan says that the announcement of his Nobel Prize has led to controversy. He says that while he originally thought that he was the target of those criticisms, he realized in the end it was a person who had nothing to do with him.
 
The author says that if people really want to understand him, they should read what he has written.
 
He says that while words can be whisked off by the wind, the written word can never be obliterated. He says that he would like it if others could find the patience to read his books. Something, he adds, that he cannot force others to do, and does not believe it might necessarily change their view of him as well.
 
Most of Mo Yan’s address to the Swedish Academy focused on how he became an author and the sources of his inspiration for writing. He praised his illiterate mother several times during the address.
 
Mo Yan says that while his mother was a person who held people who can read in high regard, she also worried often that her son’s gift for talking could get him in trouble.
 
He says that his mother frequently cautioned him not to talk so much and urged him to be a more reserved, smooth and steady youngster. He says that while his stories brought his mother joy they also created a dilemma for her.

Official escort
 
Obviously, that dilemma is something Mo Yan continues to face. In addition to his family, several government officials are accompanying the author on his trip to receive the prize.
 
When asked about the official escort earlier last week, the Foreign Ministry did not confirm or deny that officials were with Mo Yan.
 
Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei says that Mo Yan loves his country and people, and that China congratulates him on winning the Nobel literary prize.
 
Despite concerns about what Mo Yan may or may not have said, his remarks, such as those during his press conference about how the award was given to him as an individual and was not an award for a country, generated a positive response.
 
Weibo chatter

One user of China’s Twitter-like Weibo microblogging service praised Mo Yan for having the courage to speak the truth. The posting said that if Mo Yan just flatters officials all the time, he could never be capable of writing any good works.
 
Another user praised Mo Yan’s statement that his winning of the prize was not a political victory, but a literature award.
 
However, Mo Yan’s remarks at the same press conference about censorship sparked a different response. Mo Yan says that while he opposes censorship, it is sometimes necessary - like airport security.
 
One user called the remarks unbearable, while another noted that as long as there is systematic censorship the truth will become lies and lies the truth.

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