Modest, gnarled and unpretentious

Many Chinese are proud that with Mo Yan a compatriot receives the Nobel Prize for Literature. The author of "The Red Cornfield" describes social contradictions, but does not go into opposition to Beijing. Some criticize his closeness to the state. On our site interview, sinologist Wolfgang Kubin talks about the prize winner.

This year's Nobel Prize in Literature goes to the Chinese Mo Yan. The author is a storyteller who "fuses folk tales, history and the present with hallucinatory realism," the Swedish Academy said Thursday in Stockholm.

Mo Yan, born in 1955, is the first author living in China to receive the high honor. The prize will be awarded on 10. The prize was handed over in Stockholm on December and is valued at the equivalent of 925 euros.000 Euro prize. In China, the news triggered mostly positive reactions. However, there were also critical voices, as Mo Yan does not oppose the political leadership and is a member of the Communist Party. Nevertheless, his novels, which are set in a rural milieu, address social grievances.

"The red cornfield"
His works "The Red Cornfield" and "The Garlic Revolt" have been published in German. Hanser Verlag is preparing a translation of the novel "Frogs" (Chinese: Wa) about China's one-child policy for spring 2013.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (FDP) congratulated the author during a visit to Beijing. "This is yet another proof of China as a great literary nation," he said. Mo Yan reacted "overjoyed and shocked," according to Chinese state media.

Modest, knotty and unpretentious
The farmer's son is one of the most important Chinese authors of the present day. His real name is Guan Moye. His pseudonym Mo Yan means "the speechless one. Because of the Cultural Revolution, he could only go to school for five years. The Swiss publisher Lucien Leitess (Unionsverlag) describes him as modest, gnarled and unpretentious.

In 2009, Mo Yan was among the authors officially invited by the Chinese authorities to the Frankfurt Book Fair. He spoke out in favor of diversity and individuality in literature. Literature, he said, must take up the "hot topics" of a society.

In 2000, Gao Xingjian, an author who lives in exile in Paris, was the first Chinese to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Beijing reacted with great anger to the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for imprisoned dissident Liu Xiaobo and strongly antagonized the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Commitment to detainees
The German P.E.N.-Center appealed to Mo Yan to stand up for imprisoned authors. "I would be happy if Mo Yan turned out to be a worthy laureate who would take the liberty of speaking out, even in his own country, about whether it is right for 40 Chinese writers to be imprisoned," the secretary general of the writers' association, Herbert Wiesner, told the epd.

Mo Yan's narrative style is often compared with the authors of magical realism in South America. In the time of Mao Tse-tung, literature was a weapon of the revolution and should have portrayed society according to the socialist world view, he told the "Frankfurter Rundschau" in 2009. But this taboo has been broken. "Today we write how we want: about politics and society, life and love, violence and sex."

The literary expert Peter Ripken called the decision of the Nobel Committee wise and courageous: "Mo Yan writes real-critical, sometimes funny-ironic stories, which do not necessarily have to be understood as state-bearing," said Ripken, who had coordinated the China focus of the book fair in 2009.

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