Mo Yan


Mo Yan
(né Guan Moye)
b. 1956, Gaomi county, Shandong
Writer
Mo Yan emerged in the mid 1980s as one of the most important writers of contemporary China. He has been associated with the Root-seeking school (Xungen pai), an avant-garde group, but Mo’s writing defies clear-cut classification. Influenced by magical realism of Latin American writers, especially Marquez, Mo Yan combines the supernatural and surrealism with nostalgia to explore human cruelty, bureaucratic corruption and individual heroism. Mo Yan enlisted in the People’s Liberation Army in 1976 and was admitted to the literature department in the PLA College of Literature in 1984. He completed graduate work at the Lu Xun Literary Institute and resigned from the Cultural Affairs Department of the PLA in 1999. He first published in 1981 and is best known for his 1986 novel, Red Sorghum (Hong gaoliang), which is a first-person account of a grandson’s visit to his ancestral home and his retelling of its history during the Japanese invasion. Mo Yan’s depictions of rural life and his examination of the transmission of local history reveals an interest in putting the political events of twentieth-century China into a larger historical and cultural context. Ultimately, this family saga addresses the need to understand the deeply imbedded cultural and historical influences on human society. The novel was made into a film with the same title by Zhang Yimou in 1987. Garlic Ballads (Tiantang suantai zhige) and Republic of Wine (Jiu guo) complete what is considered to be a trilogy of nativist stories that centre on northeastern local culture. His collection of short stories from the 1980s and 1990s, Shifu, You’ll Do Anything for a Laugh (Shifu yue lai yue youmo), deals with corruption, greed and the supernatural.
Feuerwerker, Yi-tsi Mei (1998). ‘The Post-Modern Search for Roots: Han Shaogong, Mo Yan, and Wang Anyi’. In idem (ed.), Ideology, Power, Text: Self-Representation and the Peasant ‘Other’ in Modern Chinese Literature. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Lu, Tonglin (1993). ‘Red Sorghum: Limits of Transgression’. In X.Tang and L.Kang (eds), Politics, Ideology, and Literary Discourse in Modern China: Theoretical Interventions and Cultural Critique. Durham: Duke University Press.
Mo, Yan (1993). Red Sorghum. Trans. H.Goldblatt. New York: Viking.
——(1996).
The Garlic Ballads. Trans. H.Goldblatt. New York: Penguin.
Mo, Yan (2001). Shifu, You’ll Do Anything for a Laugh. Trans. H.Goldblatt and S.Li-Chun Lin. New York: Arcade.
——(2001). Republic of Wine. Trans. H. Goldblatt. London: Penguin.
——(2004). Big Breasts and Wide Hips. Trans. H. Goldblatt. Arcade Books.
Wang, David Der-wei (1993). ‘Imaginary Nostalgia: Shen Congwen, Song Zelai, Mo Yan, and Li Yongping’. In Ellen Widmer and David Wang (eds), From May Fourth to June Fourth: Fiction and Film in Twentieth-Century China. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Yue, Gang (1999). ‘From Cannibalism to Carnivorism: Mo Yan’s Liquorland’. In idem, The Mouth that Begs: Hunger, Cannibalism, and the Politics of Eating in Modern China. Durham: Duke University Press.
Zhong, Xueping (2000). ‘Zazhong gaoliang and the Male Search for Masculinity’. In idem, Masculinity Besieged? Issues of Modernity and Male Subjectivity in Chinese Literature of the Late Twentieth Century. Durham: Duke University Press.
MEGAN M. FERRY

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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