The Mo Yan effect on China’s literary scene: WSJ


A little more than a year later, the annual Bookworm Literary Festival, which has counted big-name international authors such as David Sedaris and Dave Eggers on the lecture roster in the past, in addition to well-known Chinese authors such as Mo Yan himself, is once again highlighting writers in China.

Has this interest had any effect on the domestic literary scene? China Real Time asked Eric Abrahamsen and Canaan Morse, editors and translators at the Chinese literary magazine Pathlight, to weigh in on the country’s literary scene.

Has the Chinese literary scene changed since Mo Yan won the Nobel?

Abrahamsen: It’s a little too early to tell. Especially when you’re talking about international editors developing an interest in Chinese literature. You’d be likely to see a result in three or four years.

Has an initial interest occurred?

Morse: I think it has. The most significant changes have been within China. The national secondary-school Chinese-language curriculums began to include Mo Yan. Some of Lu Xun’s works were kicked out.

Abrahamsen: The new canon.

Morse: Exactly. Mo Yan’s achievement allowed the machine that controls the ideological distribution in schools to have a new, living hero.

Abrahamsen: Practically speaking, a lot of funds opened up for promoting literature abroad, local provincial level governments have started pushing their provincial literature.

One of the ironies about Mo Yan is that his style of writing is a kind of Chinese literature that international publishers are getting tired of and are deciding not to continue publishing—the very long, epic novels about China’s rural problems and recent history. There’s a real fatigue among publishers and among readers.

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