Carlos Rojas in the Public Books
Mo Yan, born Guan Moye, is widely regarded as one of contemporary China’s most talented and accomplished authors. Predictably, his receipt of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature has brought him an avalanche of new attention. Many critics have celebrated him for being the first Chinese national to win the coveted award, while others have attempted to critically assess Mo Yan’s standing as a public intellectual. There have been countless discussions of Mo Yan’s work itself, examining his prose, his focus on rural Shandong, and his deployment of what the Nobel committee called “hallucinatory realism.” Here, however, I will approach the author from a different angle: how did Mo Yan, near the beginning of his literary career, imagine his relationship to an institutionally sanctioned literary tradition, as well as to other contemporary writers positioned at that tradition’s outskirts?