Mo Yan, or “Don’t Talk”, Winner of 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature

Readers of my posts here by now should know that I am not a neutral person, and my bias can be very strong. To be perfectly honest with you, I cherish the freedom of not having to pretend otherwise. Below is a compilation of Twitter Chinese community’s reaction to the news of Chinese writer Mo Yan 莫言 winning this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature (his name literally means “Don’t talk”). I follow nearly 800 people, and the voices on my Timeline are overwhelmingly lopsided. Now, since it’s unlikely that the Swedish Academy will provide you some of the key information about this particular laureate on its site, I will do you a service by supplying it: Mo Yan is currently a member of the Chinese Communist Party and a deputy Chairman of the Party endorsed and Party-run Writers’ Association. In fact, China’s Writers Association is an organ of the government on all levels, from top to county level.  And of all the tweets I read today, my favorite came from the laureate himself: It’s his poem to Bo Xilai (薄熙来), the recently disgraced Chongqing leader. Life is always rich and magical, more so than fiction, isn’t it? –Yaxue

“Mobel! ” by cartoonist Crazy Crab.

@eleven_K: Mo Yan, first Chinese Nobel winner who lives inside China but outside a prison.

@mozhixu: (leading dissident intellectual): In my last interview yesterday, my view is that, due to information unbalance, the westerners have a hard time to understand the reality of the post-totalitarian China. As a result, they underestimated, even ignored, the negative impact of Mo Yan’s subjection to the regime. But for those Chinese who pursuing freedom, it’s very unfair.

@HeQinglian (exiled economist) : Wei Yingjie from Tencent Weibo: Having read so many comments about Mo Yan, I think the most accurate one comes from the man himself: “In everyday life, I can be a stooge, a coward and a pathetic worm, but when I write, I have balls to steal, to fuck and to do whatever I want.” This probably is Mo Yan philosophy of life.

@ye_du: Mo Yan’s poem to Bo Xilai on his Tencent Weibo:

Doggerel to my literary friend in Chongqing:

Sing-red-strike-black roars mightily, the nation turns its head to Chongqing. /While the white spider waves real net, the black horse with loose bowel movement is not an angry youth./ As a writer I look down on either the left or the right, as an official you hold dear your good name in history./ A gentleman, a bedrock in turbulent waters, that you are, the splendid cliffs shine on Jiangling River like fire.

Mo Yan’s poem to Bo Xilai, on Tencent Weibo.

@YaxueCao: Sven Englund (@svenenglund, Swedish student in Fudan University who was expelled from China for writing an open letter to Hu Jintao calling for free expression), you wrote a letter calling for free expression, the Chinese government chased you out of China. Today, Mo Yan, the winner of Nobel Prize for Literature, said in China this is an era when one can speak freely. Are people in the Swedish Academy a bunch of decrepits or what?

@Michae1S Warm congratulations to Mo Yan, CCP member, former PLA officer, loyal soldier of communism, loyal supporter of censorship, boycotter of Frankfurt Book Fair, father of Big Breasts and Wide Hips, for winning the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature!

@wentommy: From Mao Zedong’s Talks at the Yen’an Forum on Literature and Art (1942) to Nobel Prize for Literature, Mo Yan becomes the binding figure in China’s cultural revolution.

@Dwchinese: Wolfgang Kubin, German scholar of Chinese contemporary literature, on Mo Yan.

@YaxueCao: To be a little off in your literary judgment is one thing; to be completely unaware of the pseudo nature of Mo Yan’s oeuvre is another.

@YaxueCao: (Answering question “What is the “pseudo nature” of Mo Yan’s works”) It’s set in China, it’s about China, but it contains little truth about China, realistically or allegorically, not China in the past, not China now. It’s pseudo China.

@wongkala: Mo Yan’s handwriting of MaoZedong’s Talks 2 Writers & Artists, the section about a writer/artist’s stand & attitude.

Mao Zedong, “Talks at Yen’an Forum on Literature and Art,” handcopied by 100 Chinese writers and artists and published earlier this year.

@YaxueCao: Just how bad is it for any of the 100 Chinese writers and artists, Mo Yan included, to engage in handcopying Mao Zedong’s Talks at the Yen’an Forum on Literature and Art earlier this year? First of all, it’s a despicable act of suck-up. Secondly, please remember: this text of Mao marks the beginning, and is the guideline, of Chinese Communists’ war on literature and art where complete submission is required of writers and artists, or they face persecution as generations of them have done. Today is a sad day for all of those Chinese who have suffered from that tyranny against literature and art.

@YaxueCao: Four Nobel Prizes and two tales, delivered by People’s Daily:

Today (Mo Yan); 2 years ago (Liu Xiaobo); 12 years ago (Gao Xingjian); and 23 years ago (Dalai Lama).

@lantudou: To best balance the relationship with China, why not award Nobel Peace Prize to Hu Jintao?

@Cloudbleu: Nobel Prize for Literature went to a man who works for a regime that suppresses expression. This is disgusting! Damn disgusting!

@ranyunfei (renowned independent intellectual who was detained last year during the jasmine terror and whose Weibo accounts, all of them, were deleted recently during the anti-Japanese protests): Mo Yan said, upon the news of the prize, that this is an era when one can speak freely. All I can say is that, at this moment of time when China is on the eve of big changes, that Nobel Prize awards a man who has no principles indicates it is an accomplice to the scoundrel China. In China, Mo Yan has received unprecedented, all-you-can-think-of promotion as no one else has ever done, yet the whole world is blind. You will all be paying the bills.

@yangpigui (independent writer): This prize that will be awarded in Stockholm will cause the spread of Stockholm Syndrome.

@aiww (Artist Ai Weiwei) : Swedish Academy of Letters & China’s Writers’ Association compete for who is more despicable. This round the foreign devils won.

@aiww: China’s Writers Association is an association of bootlickers. The Westerners think Mo Yan is outstanding among them.

@aiww: A writer is a liar if he can’t face truth; a literary prize is a curse on conscience if it shuns the question of justice.

@wenyunchao: My Weibo account has just been deleted for criticizing Mo Yan.

@Cui Weiping 崔卫平:  (renowned pro-democracy academic) To those imprisoned writers and those who are being persecuted by censorship as we speak, this is a huge blow.

@mozhixu (leading dissident intellectual): Many people still under-estimated the naivety of leftist Western intellectuals. That’s why, unlike many of you, I didn’t assert that Mo Yan had no shot at it.

@YaxueCao: Mo Yan interviewed by ifeng: “This is an era when one can speak freely.”

@aiww: Why can’t a rich man award a coward, a stooge and a hypocrite? Do you really think this world is clean?

@laoyang945: 12 years ago People’s Daily announced that Nobel Prize for Literature lost all its credibility for award to Gao. Thanks to Mo Yan, now it has been restored.

@YaxueCao: Mo Yan himself aside, the people who are overjoyed about this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature are CCTV, Xinhua, and People‘s Daily.

@tengbiao (tweet by renowned rights lawyer Teng Biao on October 6): He handcopied Mao Zedong’s Talks at the Yen’an Forum on Literature and Art (《在延安文艺座谈会上的讲话》). He claimed that writers are not in any way restrained at all in today’s China. In Frankfurt Book Fair, he refused to attend seminars with dissident writers Dai Qing 戴晴 and Bei Ling 贝岭. When Cui Weiping 崔卫平 interviewed him for his view on Liu Xiaobo’s 11-year sentence, he said, “I don’t know much about it. I don’t want to talk about it.” He has never uttered a single word for any Chinese prisoners of conscience. He is Mo Yan 莫言, this year favorite for Nobel Prize for Literature.

13 responses to “Mo Yan, or “Don’t Talk”, Winner of 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature”

  1. lina says:

    @lantudou: To best balance the relationship with China, why not award Nobel Peace Prize to Hu Jintao?


  2. […] Mo Yan, or “Don’t Talk”, Winner of 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature ( // Share this:Like this:LikeOne blogger likes this. […]

  3. kingtubby1 says:

    Poem to Bo Xilai??? A literary toad. (Didn’t encounter that fact due a big trawl thru google new.)

  4. kingtubby1 says:

    I forget. Magic realism is truly rotten writing genre.

  5. Chopstik says:

    I find his own words to be most telling:

    “In everyday life, I can be a stooge, a coward and a pathetic worm, but when I write, I have balls to steal, to fuck and to do whatever I want.”

    Not everyone has the courage to openly stand for what they say. It takes a certain person to admit their failures so openly. Rightly or wrongly, he at least seems to know his shortcomings. Perhaps history will judge him differently…

  6. yamabuki Zhou says:

    I think that either Ma Jian (“Red Dust”, The Noodle Maker, Beijing Coma) or Haruki Murakami ( “1Q84”, “Windup Bird Chronicles”, “Dance, Dance, Dance”, “After the Quake”) would have been a better choice for Nobel Prize for literature.

    I wonder how many of us have actually read any of Mo Yan’s writing. I have read translations of some of his work. Personally based on what I have read, I would no more award him the Nobel prize for literature, than R K Rowling. Still, I must admit that I have read Mo Yan in translation, so I can’t be sure as to the quality of his writing.

    Still, to criticize a writer for his or her political positions seems to miss the point of the nature of literature. From what I have seen, China and many Chinese seems somewhat obsessed with political correctness. While Art and Politics may overlap, it seems foolish to judge Art based on whether an artist conforms to political standards acceptable to the public or the Party. When I read Mo Yan, Ma Jian, Murakami, or even Rowling, I do not worry about their political views or standing with any political party. I strongly disagree with much of what Mao did while in power, yet having read some of his work, I acknowledge that he was an excellent writer.

    So in the end, I see this as a tempest in a teapot. I suspect that 100 years from now, the writing of Liu Xioabo, Ma Jian, Haruki Murakami, or JK Rowling will be much better remembered than Mo Yan’s works.

  7. […] views on the politics of Mo and his award, see David Wertime’s post at Tea Leaf Nation and Yaxue Cao’s at Seeing Red in China.Even before the press conference, Mo’s English translator Howard Goldblatt had discussed with […]

  8. […] fantastically messed-up former Party secretary of the municipality. Seeing Red in China has a translation of the poem, but the translator’s reading is based on the assumption that the poem is in fact in praise […]

  9. […] For more views on the politics of Mo and his award, see David Wertime’s post at Tea Leaf Nation and Yaxue Cao’s at Seeing Red in China. […]

  10. […] Yunfei, an acerbic writer and pro-democracy activist, called Mo Yan “a man who has no principles” on Twitter and said that the Swedish Academy’s decision […]

  11. C.A. Yeung says:

    You may also want to check out Wolfgang Kubin’s interview re: Mo Yan. I’m particularly drawn to Kubin’s comment about how Howard Goldblatt’s English translation is so much superior to Mo Yan’s original works. I can attest to that as I’ve read at least 2 of Mo Yan’s novels side by side with Goldblatt’s translation.

    Here is the link:

  12. […] has not been without controversy. After the announcement of his triumph, Mr Mo came in for a round of criticism from fellow writers and intellectuals, including many who feel that he is too cosy with the Chinese […]

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