Mo Yan — 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature Winner

Literary history holds many examples of writers who were formerly soldiers — Norman Mailer, Ernest Hemingway, Tim O’Brian, Stephen Crane, and T. E. Lawrence to name a few, but few of them can ever hope to be called such things as “[…] famous, oft-banned and widely pirated […] (Feb 15, 2005. Donald Morrison, “Holding Up Half the Sky”, Time Magazine, read more) Even fewer of these soldiers ever become Nobel Prize winners.

Mo Yan (莫言), a pen name, meaning “don’t speak,” for Guan Moye (管谟业), is the first resident of mainland China to be awarded the Nobel prize in Literature. He was a solider in the People’s Liberation Army after the Cultural Revolution. The only two other Chinese recipients of Nobel prizes are Liu Xiaobo (2010 Nobel Prize for Peace), who is currently imprisoned, and Gao Xingjian (2000 Nobel Prize for Literature), who gave up his Chinese citizenship in 1996. (Oct 16, 2012. Benjamin Carlson, “China Scrambles to Censor Discussion of Mo Yan”, Salon. Read more)

Mo Yan and his works have a complicated relationship with the Chinese government. While his books are often interpreted as critical of the government, he is a Chinese Communist Party member and the vice-chairman of the party’s Writers’ Association. He has been criticized for his compliance with the government, but some have argued that by his doing so, his books have been able to reach more people. (Oct 16, 2012. Benjamin Carlson, “China Scrambles to Censor Discussion of Mo Yan”, Salon. Read more)

Mo Yan is reportedly currently avoiding the media and working on his next book. (Oct 11, 2012. Sui-Lee Wee. “China’s Mo Yan feeds off suffering to win Nobel literature prize”, Reuters. Read more.)

The UIUC collection holds many of Mo Yan’s works, both in the original Chinese and in English translations. The International and Area Studies Library has pulled a selection of his titles for display, and they are available for checkout. You can also view his works available in our online catalog.

Mo Yan's works on display at the IAS

Mo Yan’s works on display at the IAS. Photography by Elizabeth Svoboda.

Those wishing to learn more about Mo Yan and his work should come visit the IAS and check out our display and selection of his titles, and also check out these suggested library resources:

Interviews and Articles:

Literary Criticism and Interpretation  

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About Denise Rayman

My name is Denise and I'm in my second year of study at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois. I am a Graduate Assistant at the International and Area Studies Library. I received my Bachelor's in Linguistics here at UIUC in 2011, specializing in Mandarin Chinese Sociolinguistics, and I also minored in Business. My husband also received his Bachelor's from UIUC in 2011, and he is currently a 2L here at the University of Illinois College of Law. I also work at University of Illinois Archives, where I answer reference questions and process incoming materials. I also worked at the Undergraduate Library for three years as a Student Assistant during while I was an Undergrad.