Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mo Yan

This year, the Nobel prize for literature goes to Mo Yan

Happily for us, many of Mo Yan's works are available in English translation by the estimable Howard Goldblatt:

Red Sorghum
The Garlic Ballads
Big Breasts and Wide Hips
Life and Death are Wearing Me Out
The Republic of Wine
Shifu, You'll Do Anything For a Laugh

Western bookmakers, of course, had Haruki Murakami as the favorite to win.  I've never quite understood why, given that Murakami's work does not grapple with social issues in the manner of Mario Vargas Llosa, Orhan Pamuk, J.M. Coetzee, Imre Kertesz, V.S. Naipaul, and other Nobel  winners.  Perhaps just because he is a popular non-English author? 

In any case, congratulations to Mo Yan!  I look forward to reading some of his work.  For those who have a headstart on me, do you have a recommendation as to where to begin?


  1. Does it have to be war, racism, or tyranny to be a social issue? Murakami deals with loneliness better than any author I know. Isn't that a core human experience? Just playing devil's advocate. :)

  2. Jenny, you make a good point, although while I agree with you, I suspect the Nobel looking for political/social commentary in their writers, and Murakami's focus on the individual is too narrow for them. But who knows?

    As for Yan, the Guardian has a good summary of his books, with links to reviews. While his stories sound a bit brutal to me (not that there's anything wrong with that!), my impression is that good starting novels would be The Garlic Ballads or Big Breasts and Wide Hips.