Nobel winners have included political and social critics, including Guenter Grass of Germany and Orhan Pamuk of Turkey. The Swedish Academy disputed suggestions that it had selected Mo to seek Beijing's favor and rehabilitate the Nobel's image in the minds of many Chinese.
"As we've been trying to, naggingly, say: This is a literature prize that is awarded on literary merit alone. We don't take other things in consideration," said Peter Englund, the academy's permanent secretary. The reaction in a winner's homeland "doesn't enter into our calculus."
Mo writes of visceral pleasures and existential quandaries and tends to create vivid, mouthy characters. While his early work sticks to a straightforward narrative structure enlivened by vivid descriptions, raunchy humor and farce, his style has evolved, toying with different narrators and embracing a freewheeling style often described as "Chinese magical realism."
Among the works highlighted by the Nobel judges were "Red Sorghum" (1987) and "Big Breasts & Wide Hips" (2004), as well as "The Garlic Ballads." ''Frogs" (2009) looked at forced abortions and other coercive aspects of the government's policies restricting most families to one child.