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Chinese author Mo Yan, whose 1987 novel Red Sorghum was adapted into an acclaimed film directed by Zhang Yimou, has won this year’s Nobel Prize for literature.
“Through a mixture of fantasy and reality, historical and social perspectives, Mo Yan has created a world reminiscent in its complexity of those in the writings of William Faulkner and Gabriel García Márquez, at the same time finding a departure point in old Chinese literature and in oral tradition,” said the Nobel committee in announcing the award Thursday.
“In addition to his novels, Mo Yan has published many short storie and essays on various topics, and despite his social criticism is seen in his homeland as one of the foremost contemporary authors.”
The Associated Press reports that Peter Englund — permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy which picks the Nobel winners — said the organization had reached out to 57-year-old writer ahead of the announcement. “He said he was overjoyed and scared,” England relayed.
China’s super-controlled national television interrupted its programming to broadcast the news — a rare occurrence.
Mo is the second Chinese writer to be awarded Nobel literary honors; Gao Xingjian earned the prize in 2000. Gao’s novels, critical of government, have been banned in China, where communist leaders disowned the Nobel following his win.
Mo’s biography on the Nobel Prize website states that he grew up the parents of farmers in Northeastern China’s Shandong province and left school to work during the Cultural Revolution at age 12. He began to write after joining the People’s Liberation Army in 1976, and published his first short story in 1981.
Red Sorghum was his first book to be turned into a film, which won top honors at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1988 with Yimou marking his directorial debut. Set during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the novel (adapted in English in 1993) blends romance and social drama and the film starred Gong Li, Jiang Wen and Ten Rujun.
Mo’s other works include 1995’s The Garlic Ballads, 2000’s The Republic of Wine and 2004’s Big Breasts & Wide Hips.
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