“Mo Yan’s works have elements from Gaomi’s culture,” said Mao Weijie (毛維杰), who oversees a government-affiliated Mo Yan museum in a local high school. “He writes about Gaomi paper-cutting, for example, and sometimes he writes using our Gaomi dialect.”
The Nobel Prize committee praised Mo for his “hallucinatory” writing in the vein of William Faulkner and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Yet in China much of the discussion surrounding Mo’s prize is less related to his works’ literary merit than his relationship with the authorities.
A longtime CCP member, Mo began writing in 1981 while serving with the People’s Liberation Army. He is now the vice-chairman of the official China Writers’ Association and receives his salary from the Culture Ministry. Authorities welcomed his win with breathless commentaries in the state-run press.
Outspoken dissidents have chastised Mo for keeping his head down and toeing the party line. Artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未) called the Nobel committee’s decision an “insult to humanity and to literature.”
Yet Mo’s works show an undeniable capacity for sharp-edged criticism. Many involve subjects such as corruption, the tragedy of the Cultural Revolution and forced abortions under the country’s one-child policy.
In Pingan the atmosphere is still more celebratory than soul-searching.
Guan Yifan (莫貽凡), Mo’s father, said Mo did not come back home often, but when he does, “we just talk about what’s happening in our home — how the tomatoes are growing, that type of thing.”
Inside the house faded family pictures hang on newspaper-covered walls; outside, the courtyard overflows with shucked corn.
Although Guan says that he has never read his son’s books, he is proud of Mo’s achievements.
“We’re all just happy,” he says. “Very, very happy.”