Mo Yan – 2012

Guan Moye (simplified Chinese: 管谟业; traditional Chinese: 管謨業; pinyin: Guǎn Móyè; born 17 February 1955), better known by the pen name Mo Yan (/moʊ jɛn/, Chinese: 莫言; pinyin:Mò Yán), is a Chinese novelist and short story writer. He has been referred by Donald Morrison of U.S. news magazine TIME as “one of the most famous, oft-banned and widely pirated of allChinese writers”, and by Jim Leach as the Chinese answer to Franz Kafka or Joseph Heller. He is best known to Western readers for his 1987 novel Red Sorghum Clan, of which the Red Sorghum and Sorghum Wine volumes were later adapted for the film Red Sorghum. In 2012, Mo was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his work as a writer “who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary”.

Mo Yan was born in 1955, in Gaomi County in Shandong province to a family of farmers, in Dalan Township (which he fictionalised in his novels as “Northeast Township” of Gaomi County). Mo was 11 years old when the Cultural Revolution was launched, at which time he left school to work as a farmer. At the age of 18, he began work at a cotton factory. During this period, which coincided with a succession of political campaigns from the Great Leap Forward to the Cultural Revolution, his access to literature was largely limited to novels in the socialist realist style under Mao Zedong, which centered largely on the themes of class struggle and conflict.

At the close of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, Mo enlisted in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and began writing while he was still a soldier. During this post-Revolution era when he emerged as a writer, both the lyrical and epic works of Chinese literature, as well as translations of foreign authors such as William Faulkner and Gabriel García Márquez, would make an impact on his works. In 1984, he received a literary award from the PLA Magazine, and the same year began attending the Military Art Academy, where he first adopted the pen name of Mo Yan. He published his first novella, A Transparent Radish, in 1984, and released Red Sorghum in 1986, launching his career as a nationally recognized novelist. In 1991, he obtained a master’s degree in Literature from Beijing Normal University.