11 October 2012

Nobel Prize for Literature 2012: Mo Yan

I was slightly dreading the Nobel announcement this year.  There was buzz about Bob Dylan and I just didn't want the prize to go to him, no matter how outside a chance it seemed (and then there were the chuckleheads to said it should go to EL James - sorry, my egalitarianism doesn't extend even remotely that far).  I'd be much happier to see the prize go to Haruki Murakami, Joyce Carol Oates, Kazuo Ishiguro, Salman Rushdie, AS Byatt, or comprable (or, if dead people were allowed, Kurt Vonnegut who totally got the shaft in his lifetime).

And the committee managed to surprise me yet again - they selected the Chinese writer, Mo Yan. 

Now, I don't think I've run across him before.  I don't mind.  Finding authors new to me is half the fun of the Nobel when it doesn't go to a favorite of mine.  But the nice thing is that he does have a significant body of work translated into English and is either currently available or will be available soon and it is accessible.  The committee said nice things about his imagery - "who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary" - so I'd like to try on his words for size.  This is much easier done than for the awardee last year, Thomas Tranströmer, who writes Swedish poetry and is really hard to find stateside (compared to the 2010 winner, Mario Vargas Llosa, whose backlist catalogue is just filthy with available books). 

The NYT has a nice article which ends with a quote from Mo regarding his decision to attend the 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair when China refused to allow dissident writers to attend:

“A writer should express criticism and indignation at the dark side of society and the ugliness of human nature, but we should not use one uniform expression,” he said. “Some may want to shout on the street, but we should tolerate those who hide in their rooms and use literature to voice their opinions.”

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:49 PM

    I'm excited that it was given to a Chinese writer, yay! It's been too long since I've read Chinese literature.