Reappraising Asian literature


tagoreOne hundred years ago, the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore. It was generally regarded as a breakthrough as it was the first time an Asian writer had won the prize since the first was awarded in 1901. 

However, the prize announcement said that “he (Tagore) has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West,” showed that at that time, those awarding the prize still regarded Tagore’s works as “part of the literature of the West,” rather than the East. 

Nearly 100 years later, the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Chinese novelist, Mo Yan, the fifth Asian writer to receive the prize. (Before him and after Tagore, there were two Japanese winners, Yasunari Kawabata and Kenzabur e, and also Turkish writer, Orhan Pamuk.)

The prize announcement emphasized that Mo’s works were deeply influenced by magic realism, which originated in the West.

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