Press Release: Mo Yan’s Ties to The University of Oklahoma

October 12, 2012

Norman, Okla., Oct. 11, 2012 —Mo Yan, a Chinese novelist, essayist, and short story writer with multiple connections to the University of Oklahoma, has been awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature.  

The 57-year-old writer is the second Chinese laureate to win the $1.2 million Nobel Prize and was the inaugural laureate of OU’s Newman Prize for Chinese Literature. The Newman Prize, created in 2008 by OU’s Institute for U.S.-China Issues, was awarded to Mo Yan on OU’s Norman campus in March 2009. The prize included a commemorative medallion, a certificate, and $10,000. 

The University of Oklahoma Press will publish an English-language edition of Mo Yan’s 2004 novel Tanxiangxing (Sandalwood Death), translated by Howard Goldblatt, in January 2013 as part of its Chinese Literature Today Book Series. This powerful novel by Mo Yan—one of contemporary China’s most famous and prolific writers—is both a stirring love story and an unsparing critique of political corruption during the final years of the Qing Dynasty, China’s last imperial epoch.

In 2011, the University of Oklahoma Press, Chinese Literature Today, World Literature Today, the University of Oklahoma’s College of Arts and Sciences, and Beijing Normal University’s College of Chinese Language and Literature announced an exciting new book series focusing on contemporary Chinese literature in partnership with China’s National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (NOCFL). The Chinese Literature Today Book Series, with Jonathan Stalling as series editor, focuses on English translations of critically acclaimed works of poetry, fiction, and drama written by Chinese authors.

According to Mo Yan’s Nobel biography, “through a mixture of fantasy and reality, historical and social perspectives, Mo Yan has created a world reminiscent in its complexity of those in the writings of William Faulkner and Gabriel García Márquez, at the same time finding a departure point in old Chinese literature and in oral tradition.”

OU’s international literary magazine, World Literature Today, featured Mo Yan in its July/August issue with various reflective essays on the writer and excerpts from Mo Yan's Wolf and Inside Out, translated by Howard Goldblatt. 

 Born as Guan Moye in 1955 in Gaomi, a town in the Shandong Province of northeastern China, Mo Yan was the son of farmers. He began his literature studies and writing career after joining the People’s Liberation Army in 1976. He adopted the pen name Mo Yan, meaning “Don’t Talk,” initially to adhere to a code of personal brevity expected in China. This name change, at first seen as culturally and politically rebellious, was used with his first short story in 1981 in a literary journal and with his breakthrough novella Touming de hong luobo in 1986.  

Mo Yan is best known for his 1987 novel Hong gaoliang jiazu, which was filmed the same year and translated in English as Red Sorghum in 1993. Mo Yan’s notable works include satirical novel Tiantang suantai zhi ge (1988, in English The Garlic Ballads, 1995), satirical Jiuguo (1992, in English The Republic of Wine, 2000) and Shengsi pilao (2006, in English Life and Death are Wearing Me Out, 2008).  Mo Yan’s works have been translated into English and French, but their social commentary consistently reflects life in China. In his latest novel, Wa (2009), Mo Yan explores the repercussions of the nation’s single-child policy. 


For more information:

“A Westerner’s Reflection on Mo Yan,” WLT executive director Robert Con Davis-Undiano

Sandalwood Death at the University of Oklahoma Press

CLT Book Series at the University of Oklahoma Press

Newman Prize