Page 3 Profile: Mo Yan, Chinese author


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The Independent Culture

Is that his real name?

Actually, no. It's a pseudonym meaning "don't speak" in Chinese. His actual name is Guan Moye, but he came up with the pen name as a reminder that he should sometimes hold his tongue. The writer admits he can sometimes be a little too frank.

What's his writing like?

Pretty good. So good in fact, that Mo, 57, was yesterday awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature, beating off favourites Haruki Murakami and William Trevor. His style has been described as "hallucinatory realism", because he "merges folk tales, history and the contemporary" within his work. His most famous novel, Red Sorghum, published in China in 1987, is a brutal tale of war, rape and torture set at the end of the Cultural Revolution. He's pretty fast too; his most recent novel, Life and Death are Wearing Me Out, was completed in just six weeks.

How's the news going down in China?

The Communist Party's official paper, the People's Daily has been proudly trumpeting Mo's success, announcing him as the first Chinese winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Technically, Gao Xingjian won it in 2000, but at the time he had emigrated to France, much to the distaste of the Chinese government. However highly outspoken artist Ai Weiwei is less than impressed. He has criticised Mo for not showing solidarity with those being persecuted in China for their political views, saying the author has "no involvement with the contemporary struggle".

What does Mo Yan himself think about winning?

Apparently he was "overjoyed and scared" to hear the news. He hasn't said much since. Perhaps winning the world's most prestigious literary prize has finally left him lost for words.