NOBEL Prize in Literature Announced

The “gateway book” to the Nobel winner’s work

Mo Yan became the first Chinese writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature today, confounding expectations of UK bettors, who had him running well behind the lead, Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami.

According to the citation, “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.”


The Guardian gives a handy rundown of “Mo Yan’s best books — in pictures.”

According to a scholar quoted by the Guardian, the author is “probably the most translated living Chinese writer.” Several of his titles are published here by Arcade Publishing (distributed by Norton; UPDATE: the publisher sent out an alert that reprints are in the works):

Big Breasts and Wide Hips; the Guardian notes, “Mo Yan’s most recent novel, tells of the consequences of the single-child policy implemented in China through the story of a rural gynaecologist.”

Life and Death are Wearing Me Out; called “a brilliant extended fable” by translator Howard Goldblatt

The Garlic Ballads; an earlier edition from Penguin/Viking is owned by many libraries. According to the Guardian, “Nobel permanent secretary Peter Englund picked out The Garlic Ballads, first published in English in 1995, as Mo Yan’s gateway book.”

The Republic of Wine  — the 2000 Arcade edition is owned many libraries;  translator, Goldblatt says this “may be the most technically innovative and sophisticated novel from China I’ve read.”

Shifu, You’ll Do Anything for a Laugh  – the 2001 Arcade edition is owned by many libraries; a collection of short stories that “ranges from comedy to tragedy via fantasy and fable.”

The following title is published by Penguin/Viking:

Red Sorghum: a Novel of China — the Guardian says this is “Mo Yan’s best-known work in the west, thanks to Zhang Yimou’s 1987 film, which was based on the first two chapters of the novel, Red Sorghum follows three generations of a family as they survive all the horrors that the 20th century unleashed on rural China.”

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