Mo Yan wins Nobel Prize in Literature

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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," announced Peter Englund, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy in Stockholm on Thursday.

Mo Yan, 57, is one of the most celebrated Chinese writers, known for novels including Red Sorghum, the Garlic Ballads and Big Breasts & Wide Hips. "Mo Yan," meaning "don't speak" in Chinese, is a pen name. His real name is Guan Moye.

"I'm very happy to hear the news," Mo told China News Service after he was informed that he won the Nobel prize. "But I feel this award doesn't mean too much for me. There are many outstanding Chinese writers, whose excellent works could also be recognized by the world."

Next, Mo Yan added, he would still focus on writing his new book.

The awarding ceremony will be held on Dec. 10.

Last year's literature prize went to Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer.

Alfred Nobel, a Swedish industrialist who invented dynamite, established the Nobel Prizes in his will in 1895. The first awards were handed out six years later.

The winner will win a medal, a personal diploma and a cash award of 8 million Swedish Kronor (about 1 million U.S. dollars).

Mo Yan, as a representative of Chinese authors, has based his works on his rich knowledge of the Chinese countryside where he grew up, and his insightful and critical thinking on Chinese history, society and personality, said Cheng Yongxin, who is also a friend of Mo.

At a bookshop reading in Beijing in January 2010, Mo told readers, "My characters are all very native Chinese, and my language is also imprinted with Chinese characteristics. I think that's why I've got international readership."

His literary achievements make him a serious competitor for this year’s prize. He has been a popular figure in China’s literary scene since the mid-1980s.

Most people would find it hard to associate the animalistic spirits in "Red Sorghum" with the mild-mannered and even timid looking Mo Yan.

Most of Mo Yan’s works are set in his own hometown, Gaomi County, in East China’s Shandong Province. Before the age of 20, he’d never ventured beyond the boundaries of his own county.

Mo Yan was born in 1955, the fourth child in his family. In his early years, he experienced poverty, hunger and was repressed by a particularly harsh father. All of these things have influenced Mo Yan’s later writings.

When Mo Yan was 12 years old, he was forced to leave school and graze cattle. To satisfy his thirst for reading, Mo Yan read every single book he could get hold of, even the dictionary.

When he turned 20, he joined the army and got to see the world beyond his home village. Six years later in 1981, he started his writing career. In 1987, "The Red Sorgum" burst onto China’s literary scene.

Red Sorghum was successfully filmed in 1987, directed by Zhang Yimou.

Mo Yan’s other major works include "The Republic of Wine", "Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out", "Sandalwood Death", "Big Breasts and Wide Hips" and more. Mo has won several top Chinese and international prizes including the Mao Dun Prize 2011 for "Frog".

More than any other Chinese author, Mo Yan is well represented in foreign languages around the world. And with good reason - he’s one of the great novelistic masters of modern Chinese literature, with a long list of ambitious novels to his name. His writing is powerful, visual, and broad, dipping into history, fantasy and absurdity to tell stories of China and its people.

"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," Nobel Prize website said, "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."

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