We’re surprised, he’s scared: Mo Yan wins this year’s Nobel

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He doesn't look scared, anyway.

By now, everyone knows that China’s Mo Yan is the surprise winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.  “Surprise,” because he made not even a ripple on Ladbroke’s long betting list, or in any conversations I’ve heard.   Not so much a surprise, however, given that the Swedes were bound to atone for giving last year’s award to their worthy countryman Tomas Tranströmer, by giving it this year to an African or Asian, or anyone far, far away from Stockholm.  But wasn’t the poet Bei Dao a perennial nominee?  The Nobel judges seem disinclined to give to poets two years in a row as well.  At any rate, Mo Yan was “overjoyed and scared” at the news.

Most of us are strangers to his writing, I suspect.  So  here is Ted Gioia‘s review of the author’s Republic of Wine a few years back.

And for his stories, here’s an excerpt from Frogs:

I have to admit that, though I did not make it public, I was personally opposed to my Aunty’s marriage plans. My father, my brothers and their wives shared my feelings. It simply wasn’t a good match in our view. Ever since we were small we’d looked forward to seeing Aunty find a husband. Her relationship with Wang Xiaoti had brought immense glory to the family, only to end ingloriously. Yang Lin was next, and while not nearly the ideal match that Wang would have provided, he was, after all, an official, which made him a passable candidate for marriage. Hell, she could have married Qin He, who was obsessed with her, and be better off than with Hao Dashou . . . we were by then assuming she’d wind up an old maid, and had made appropriate plans. We’d even discussed who would be her caregiver when she reached old age. But then, with no prior indication, she’d married Hao Dashou. Little Lion and I were living in Beijing then, and when we heard the news, we could hardly believe our ears. Once the preposterous reality set in, we were overcome by sadness.

Read the rest at Granta here.


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