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    OUHK Honorary Doctor of Letters Mo Yan wins 2012 Nobel Literature Prize
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    OUHK Honorary Doctor of Letters Mo Yan wins 2012 Nobel Literature Prize video

    On 11 October, exhilarating news from Sweden brought joy and glory to Chinese communities around the world. Renowned Chinese novelist Mo Yan became the first ever Chinese Nobel laureate of literature.

    The OUHK conferred an honorary degree upon Mo Yan in 2005 and takes great pride in the success of this 'family member.' In his congratulatory letter, President Prof. John C Y Leong praised Mo Yan as 'the pride of contemporary Chinese literature' for his profound achievements in literary writing.

    A farmer's son tells farmers' stories

    Born in 1955 to parents who were farmers, Mo Yan, a pseudonym for Guan Moye, grew up in Gaomi in Shandong province. The Cultural Revolution forced him to leave school at the age of 12, and later to work in the fields and factories, until he joined the People's Liberation Army at 21. A passionate reader, Mo Yan continued his education in the army and received his Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in creative writing.

    Having begun writing novels in the 1980s, Mo Yan first became known with his novella The Crystal Carrot. He found literary success in 1987 with Red Sorghum, which director Zhang Yimou made into a major film that won the Golden Bear award at the 1988 Berlin Film Festival. During the following two decades, his literary works received prizes at home and abroad, and were translated into many languages. His most famous works include Big Breasts and Wide Hips, Sandalwood Death, Life and Death are Wearing Me Out and Frog.


    The Swedish Academy praised Mo Yan as an author who 'with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary.' Mo Yan excels at writing stories about peasants and using a mixture of fantasy and reality to reveal social problems.

    The OUHK conferred upon Mo Yan the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, in 2005 in recognition of his mastery of the art of storytelling and his courage in detailing life in rural China. In his citation, the former Dean of the School of Arts and Social Sciences Prof. John Minford described him as 'combining a powerfully original writing style and technique, with an obstinate refusal to shirk some of the more violent and shocking aspects of personal and social reality that he sees around him.'


    'How did I become a novelist?'

    At a seminar entitled 'Chinese Literature as World Literature: Writer, Translator and Critics' held three days after he received his honorary degree, Mo Yan said he did not deserve the honour. Nevertheless, he told his father that the degree was equivalent to being at the deputy magistrate level.

    mo4Speaking at the seminar, Mo Yan recalled that as a child, living in poverty, he wanted to become a writer so that he could earn enough to enjoy three meals of dumplings a day. He said hunger also caused the hallucinations that gave him his creativity, and thinking at night of the many people dying then in the famine inspired ghost stories.

    Mo Yan described himself as 'talkative and honest,' character traits that often brought troubles upon his family. He adopted the pen name Mo Yan -- which means 'don't speak' -- to remind himself not to talk too much. Nonetheless, he never manages to keep quiet. 'Telling the truth is undoubtedly a valuable quality in a writer. Art and literature should expose social injustice and reveal the dark side of the human soul,' he said.

    kkUnderstanding contemporary China through Mo Yan's novels

    Prof. Tam Kwok-kan, Dean of the School of Arts and Social Sciences, admires Mo Yan's stories for their artful mixture of a traditional vernacular narrative mode and a modern narrative perspective. He said Mo Yan drew on his experiences in the rural area where he lived and used a style that combined written and spoken language to reveal social problems that existed everywhere in China during that turbulent period of its history. Prof. Tam said, 'The helplessness, joys and sorrows brought by political unrest are truly exposed in his novels. His works are filled with well-fleshed-out living, breathing characters.'

    Prof. Tam recommended that students read Frog, which illuminates the impact of China's single-child policy. He also considered Life and Death are Wearing Me Out, The Republic of Wine and Red Sorghum to be the best choices for those who want to experience Mo Yan's 'hallucinatory realism.'

    The School hopes that Mo Yan will visit the OUHK again to give talks and lectures, and would consider adding a new course on Mo Yan's work in the future. Prof. Tam said that our Film Arts students might also attempt, if Mo Yan's permission is given, to turn his novella into short films.

    Biography of Mo Yan


    Born in Gaomi, Shandong; given name is Guan Moye


    Leaves school due to the Cultural Revolution


    Leaves Gaomi and begins to work in the fields


    Joins the People's Liberation Army


    Publishes his first novella


    Studies in the Literature Department of the Arts College of the People's Liberation Army


    Publishes Red Sorghum, which is later made into a movie


    Enters the Lu Xun College of Literature at Beijing Normal University and obtains a Master's Degree in 1991


    Made a Chevalier des Arts et de la Littérature de la Légion d'Honneur by the French government


    Receives the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, from the OUHK, and the Nonino International Literature Prize in Italy


    Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

    iTunes UMo Yan's OUHK talk available on iTunes U

    Mo Yan's talk on 'Chinese Literature as World Literature: Writer, Translator and Critics,' delivered at the OUHK, will be available at the end of December at 'OUHK on iTunes U' (http://itunesu.ouhk.edu.hk/).

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