Chinese Writer Mo Yan Wins Nobel Prize

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 11 2012 9:17 AM

And the Nobel Prize in Literature Goes to ...

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Chinese writer Mo Yan, the 2012 Nobel Literature Prize winner, attending a premier of a TV series in Ningbo, east China's Zhejiang province on July 19, 2010

Photograph by AFP/GettyImages

Chinese writer Mo Yan was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature today for work that, in the words of the committee, uses "hallucinatory realism" to merge "folk tales, history and the contemporary."

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Among the works highlighted by the Swedish Academy were: Red Sorghum (1993), The Garlic Ballads (1995), and Big Breasts & Wide Hips (2004).

The Associated Press with more:

Born Guan Moye in 1955 to a farming family in eastern Shandong province, Mo chose his penname while writing his first novel. Garrulous by nature, Mo has said the name, meaning “don’t speak,” was intended to remind him to hold his tongue lest he get himself into trouble and to mask his identity since he began writing while serving in the army.
His breakthrough came with novel ‘Red Sorghum’ published in 1987. Set in a small village, like much of his fiction, ‘Red Sorghum’ is an earthy tale of love and peasant struggles set against the backdrop of the anti-Japanese war. It was turned into a film that won the top prize at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1988, marked the directing debut of Zhang Yimou and boosted Mo’s popularity.
Mo writes of visceral pleasures and existential quandaries and tends to create vivid, mouthy characters. While his early work stuck to a straight-forward narrative structure enlivened by vivid descriptions and raunchy humor, Mo has become more experimental, toying with different narrators and embracing a free-wheeling style often described as ‘Chinese magical realism.’
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The announcement set off widespread celebrations in Mo's home country, where government leaders had disowned the only previous Chinese winner of the prestigious award, Gao Xingjian, who won the literature award in 2000 for dramas and fiction that have been banned in China for their criticisms of the communist government.

Mo was on the a short list of possible winners predicted by Slate editors David Haglund and Dan Kois. You can see the rest of Slate's Nobel prize predictions here. Next up tomorrow: The Peace Prize.

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