Mo Yan


Mo Yan

© The Nobel Foundation. Photo: U. Montan

Mo Yan
The Nobel Prize in Literature 2012

Born: 25 March 1956, Gaomi, China

Residence at the time of the award: China

Prize motivation: “who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary”

Language: Chinese

Prize share: 1/1


Mo Yan was born to a farming family in Shandong Province, China. After only a few years of schooling, he began work as a cattle herder at the age of 11. As a young man, Mo Yan enlisted in the army, where his literary talent was first discovered. He published his first novel in 1981 and went on to achieve his international breakthrough with the novel Hong gaoliang jiazu (Red Sorghum), which was later adapted for film. Despite the social criticism contained in his books, in China he is viewed as one of the country's foremost authors. Mo Yan is married and has one daughter.


Mo Yan's writings cover a wide span, from short stories, to novels, to essays. His earlier works, were written according to the prevailing literary dictates of the ruling regime. Over time, however, Mo Yan's storytelling began to seek out its own, more independent paths. His works include Hong gaoliang jiazu (Red Sorghum), Tiantang suantai zhi ge (The Garlic Ballads) and Shengsi pilao (Life and Death are Wearing Me Out). His narrative style bears the hallmarks of magical realism. Mo Yan's writing often uses older Chinese literature and popular oral traditions as a starting point, combining these with contemporary social issues.

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