Chinese Nobel literature laureate “surprised, delighted” amid applause

Mo Yan, after winning the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature, is interviewed by the press in his hometown Gaomi, east China’s Shandong Province, Oct. 11, 2012. Chinese writer Mo Yan has won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy announced in Stockholm on Thursday. (Xinhua/Zhao Xiaoyu)

Mo Yan, the first Chinese national to win the Nobel Literature Prize, said Thursday he was “surprised” and “delighted” on his success as the country congratulated him on his achievement.

“I am very surprised to be awarded the prize,” Mo told reporters hours after his win in his hometown, in Gaomi City of east China’s Shandong Province.

“I am delighted,” he added.

Mo was born and raised in a village in Gaomi, where many of his novels are set, such as “Red Sorghum,” which was later adapted into a film by director Zhang Yimou.

After his success, he thanked his hometown for its inspiration. He is also reportedly writing another story there.

He said in an interview with the China Central Television that he was very grateful to the land where he grew up and returns every year.

Gaomi is a small city compared with Beijing, less populated and less noisy, he said.

“I can hide in my small room here, writing attentively. My hometown is closely related with my literature,” the 57-year-old Chinese writer told media.

Mo said that the folk arts and folk culture accompanied his growth and he was influenced by the cultural elements he witnessed through his childhood.

“When I picked up the pen for literature creation, the folk cultural elements inevitably entered my novels and affected and even determined the artistic styles of my works,” he said.

“Thank you for coming all the way to Gaomi. This should be a season of red sorghum, but no such crop is planted any more. I believe none of you have seen the crop,” he added.

Mo was announced the winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature in Stockholm by Peter Englund, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy in Stockholm.

Mo’s body of works “with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary,” Englund told a press conference.

The author is widely referred to as China’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez for his hallucinatory realism.

Mo said after his win that William Faulkner and Marquez had greatly inspired him. “But I also realized that I need to escape from them,” he said. “The two authors are like two scorching volcanos, which will burn me up if I am too close to them.”

But the writer once said in public he was unhappy to be dubbed that. “I am just China’s Mo Yan,” he has said.

His win brought joy to his supporters as no Chinese national has ever won the Nobel Prize in Literature in its century-long history.

“He definitely deserves the prize,” Er Yue He, a renowned Chinese writer in central China’s Henan Province told Xinhua. “His prize is an affirmation for Chinese literature on the world stage,” he said.

He Jianming, vice president of the China Writers Association, said it is not only a joyous occasion for Mo, but also a dream coming true for generations of Chinese writers.

The association sent Mo a congratulatory letter upon his success.

Mo had effectively extended the boundaries of imagination, the depth of thoughts and state of arts of Chinese literature by focusing on lives the countryside with a unique national style, it said.

“I will continue to write stories in a down-to-earth manner to depict the lives and emotions of the human beings,” Mo told reporters Thursday.

Shi Lingkong, editor-in-chief with Shanghai Translation Publishing House, attributed Mo’s success to his “Chinese countryside stories with magic power.” He said: “This magic power has great attraction to the Western readership.”

Shi said another reason why Mo won the prize was because a large number of his works had been translated into different languages.

Wang Meng, China’s former minister of culture and a writer said Mo’s win showed that China’s contemporary literature has won the world’s attention.

Beijing-based writer Bi Shumin called Mo’s win “an epochal moment.”

“On the one hand, it shows the Chinese culture’s development and prosperity,” she said. ” On the other hand, it shows that China’s culture has been recognized worldwide.”

Liu Heng, president of the Beijing Writers’ Association said Mo’s win will “greatly benefit” the overseas communication of the Chinese culture.

Exhilaration was felt in China’s cyberspace too.

“Congratulations to Mo Yan,” said “Qingfengxiaoge” on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging site. “You are the pride of China.”

On Thursday, “Will a Chinese national become the laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature?” remained the most popular topic on Sina Weibo.

An hour before the announcement of the winner, nearly 8,000 participants of an online poll conducted by the website said they believed Mo would win. The figure was three times as many as those who said he would not.

Many Chinese people have waited for this moment and speculation he may win intensified over the past few days.

The author, whose real name is Guan Moye (his penname Mo Yan means “Don’t speak”), was regarded as one of the possible winners along with Canada’s Alice Munro and Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami.

Mo has been known since the late 1980s for his novels such as “Big Breasts and Wide Hips” and “Garlic Ballads.”

Sales of his works have increased at online bookshops in China this week. Mo’s novel, “Frog,” which earned him the Mao Dun Literature Prize, China’s most prestigious award for novels, is out of stock on, the country’s leading online book shop.


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