Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Today Chinese media is celebrating the news that the 2012 Nobel Prize in literature has been awarded to a Chinese writer, Mo Yan, a novelist celebrated for his “hallucinatory realism” according to Reuters.”This is the first Chinese writer who has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Chinese writers have waited too long, the Chinese people have waited too long,” state newspaper People’s Daily wrote in an online commentary today.
Mo, whose pen-name means “don’t speak”, is renowned for his popular novels about rural life in China, which have been compared in their complexity to Gabriel García Márquez. One novel, Red Sorghum, was eventually turned into a movie by Zhang Yimou.
Unfortunately, not everyone is celebrating. For one thing, while Mo is described as being the first Chinese national to win the award, he’s not the exactly the first Chinese person to win the award. Gao Xingjian won in 2000, but was not officially celebrated by the Chinese Communist Party as he was living in France as a French citizen (state news agency Xinhua has curiously chosen to not name Gao in its list of recent winners of the prize).
But perhaps more importantly, there’s the question of where Mo’s loyalties lie. Depite the fact that a number of his books have been banned, Mo is frequently seen as uncritical to the Chinese Communist Party.
Shanghaiist has an article that offers a good round up of the accusations. Most damningly, Mo was involved in a book that was written to commemorate the 70th-anniversary of Mao Zedong’s “Speech at Yan’an Forum on Art and Literature” — a speech that said that artists who did not integrate into the Communist Party should be punished. He is also chairman of the Chinese Writers’ Association, a government-backed organisation that hasn’t backed dissident authors in notable cases.
Even state newspaper China Daily was questioning the decision, writing an article before the prize was announced that asked “Is Mo Yan man enough for the Nobel?”
Despite this backlash, a number of Western experts have come out in defence of Mo, pointing out that he hasn’t portrayed himself as a dissident and has perhaps done more to challenge the system than many would, it’s not too clear if the Chinese public themselves care — at the time of writing “Nobel” is the sixth most popular search term on Sina Weibo — trailing far behind the top story about rumours about another government sex scandal.
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