Nobel Laureate Mo Yan gives readers outside China an idea of what it is like to be Chinese, while people inside China gain a sense of history, says one distinguished translator.
Mr. Mo was given the prize for novels in which, “with hallucinatory realism [he] merges folk tales, history, and the contemporary,” in the words of Peter Englund, Secretary of the Swedish Academy that awards the prize, speaking in Stockholm.
Mo, whose real name is Guan Moye but who writes under the pen name “Mo Yan,” meaning “don’t speak,” has written a number of sprawling novels tackling major themes of modern Chinese history such as land reform and enforced birth control. His work betrays the literary influences of William Faulkner and magical realist Gabriel García Márquez.
“He absorbed a lot of foreign literature and Chinese traditions and came up with a new direction for Chinese literary language,” says Eric Abrahamsen, a literary translator in Beijing.
Mo first attracted international attention in 1987 with his novel “Red Sorghum” which was later made into a film by director Zhang Yimou. He has since won almost all the prizes available to Chinese writers, but his artistic achievements have sometimes been overshadowed by his readiness to acquiesce to the wishes of a government that persecutes writers of whom it disapproves.