“I felt I had many words to express …”
Transcript of the telephone interview with Mo Yan immediately following the announcement of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature, 11 October 2012. The interviewer is Yan Shuang Lindblom. The interview was made in Chinese, here transcribed by Liu Pu Zheng.
[Yan Shuang Lindblom] Firstly, congratulations … what was your feeling when you received the news of being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature?
[Mo Yan] I feel so surprised … when I heard this, because I considered the Nobel Prize in Literature to be far away from me.
[YSL] Many of Nobelprize.org’s visitors are high school students, which of your books would be a good starting point for a young person or newcomer to your work?
[MY] I hope readers start with my book Life and Death are Wearing Me Out which was published in Sweden this year. Then read the others, such as Red Sorghum, Big Breasts and Wide Hips and so on. I recommend Life and Death are Wearing Me Out first because this book reflects my writing style relatively comprehensively, and also my exploration on the art of novel.
[YSL] As a young man, what inspired you to become a writer?
[MY] I started to read books when I was a child. This triggered my strong interest in literature after reading more and more books. I felt I had many words to express, I thought the strongest and most unconstrained way was through literature, so I started to write. Of course, I also had a desire to prove myself, and a wish to change my destiny.
[YSL] Could you introduce us to your creative works?
[MY] Right now I recommended my book Life and Death are Wearing Me Out. Firstly this book deals with major issues from Chinese history and reality, such as the land issues, the farmers’ issues. Secondly, in this book I have used the oriental surreal wording. In this novel, the human and the animal can switch freely, can observe the changes that Chinese society and history have underwent in the last 50 years, through the eyes of the animal. In addition, I made many attempts in my use of language to try the most free style and most unconstrained way to describe my ideas from the heart. So I think this book is a relatively perfect and uniform combination between attention to reality and the exploration of creative style.
[YSL] I read that you wrote Life and Death are Wearing me Out in 43 days, what drove you to write so fast? How do you find the writing process?
[MY] How I could write the novel Life and Death are Wearing Me Out so quickly? Firstly, this book is based on reality. When I was of the ages 6 and 7, there was a farmer who lived nearby our school. He did the counterwork against the whole society, against the “people’s communes”, and the “collectivization ” individually, he was insisting to the last. At that time a person like him was considered to be very extreme, he was considered as monster, people carried out beatings and abuse towards him. He made huge sacrifices in order to insist upon his own opinion. His family, including his son and daughter, parted way from him and were separated from him, but he still would not yield. Later on, history proved that he had been right. After I embarked on writing the novel, I felt this guy would go into it sooner or later, so this book was written very quickly. I spent only 43 days writing the draft, but in fact the novel’s characters had already existed in my mind for many decades. The thinking was very adequate, so the writing was fast.
[YSL] How are you going to celebrate and are you coming to Sweden for the award ceremony?
[MY] I think I will be with my family tomorrow and eat dumplings, because I hope we can eat dumplings together. I will also certainly come to Sweden on 10 December for the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony. Thanks very much! And see you in Sweden!
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