NEWSMAKER-China's Mo Yan feeds off suffering to win Nobel literature prize


(no changes to text) By Sui-Lee Wee

BEIJING, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Mo Yan, who has won the Nobelliterature prize, was forced to drop out of primary school andherd cattle during China's Cultural Revolution and was sometimesso destitute he ate tree bark and weeds to survive.

But Mo, 57, credits this early suffering for inspiring hisworks which tackle corruption, decadence in Chinese society,China's family planning policy and rural life.

"Loneliness and hunger were my fortunes of creation", theauthor of the novel Red Sorghum said once.

The decision to award Mo the prestigious prize will begreeted with elation and consternation in China - he is thefirst Chinese national to win the literature prize.

The author, whose pen name Mo Yan means "don't speak", isregarded by critics as being too close to the Communist Party,although some of his books were banned. His book titles include"Big Breasts and Wide Hips" and "The Republic of Wine".

Influenced by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, D.H. Lawrence andErnest Hemingway, Mo uses fantasy and satire in many of hisbooks, which have been labelled by state media as "provocativeand vulgar".

Red Sorghum portrays the hardships endured by farmers in theearly years of communist rule and was made into a film byOscar-nominated director Zhang Yimou.

The threat of a book being banned in the domestic marketmeans Chinese authors have to step carefully if they want tomake a living, even if the censorship system today is not asterrifying as it was during the hardline Maoist era.

"A writer should express criticism and indignation at thedark side of society and the ugliness of human nature, but weshould not use one uniform expression," Mo said in a speech atthe 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair, according to China Daily.

"Some may want to shout on the street, but we shouldtolerate those who hide in their rooms and use literature tovoice their opinions."

A number of rights activists and other writers had said Mowas unworthy of the prize and denounced him for commemorating aspeech by Chairman Mao Zedong.

Mo, together with other Chinese writers, copied out sectionsof Mao's speech for a special book to mark the 70th anniversaryof the speech. It had said writers who did not integrate theirwork with the Communist revolution would be punished.

"On the political front, he is singing the same tune with anundemocratic regime," prominent rights lawyer Teng Biao saidbefore the award. "I think for him to win the Nobel Prize forLiterature is inappropriate."

"As an influential writer, he (Mo) didn't use his influenceto speak up for intellectuals and political prisoners - insteadhe catered to the government's interests by handwriting thespeech."

Teng said that Mo, a vice-chairman of the government-backedChinese Writers' Association, shied away from commenting on the2010 Nobel Peace Prize award to Liu Xiaobo, who was sentenced in2009 to an 11-year jail term for inciting subversion.

Mo, whose real name is Guan Moye, was born into a peasantfamily in Gaomi, a village in eastern Shandong province.

When the Cultural Revolution ended, he joined the People'sLiberation Army. He studied at the army's institute of arts andliterature and later at Beijing Normal University, where hereceived a master's degree in literature and art.

"I think writers write for their consciences, they write fortheir own true audiences, for their souls," Mo said in aninterview with China Daily. "No person writes to win awards."

An employee of the sales department of a publishing housethat prints Mo's works said Mo, who is in Shandong, is decliningmedia interviews. Mo could not be reached as his mobile phonewas turned off.

"He thinks it's too noisy now, he wants to concentrate onhis writing," said the employee, who declined to give her name,adding that Mo has been working on his new book for three tofour months.

"Mo Yan is a person who has very high expectations forhimself."

Gao Xingjian, who won the prize in 2000, was born in Chinabut was a French national when he won the award. A spokesman forthe Chinese Writers' Association dismissed the prize as one usedfor "political purposes, and has therefore lost its authority".

Gao's novels and plays have been banned in his homelandsince 1986.

(Additional reporting by Beijing Newsroom and Hui Li; Editingby Ron Popeski and Robert Woodward)

((suilee.wee@thomsonreuters.com)(+86 10 6627 1281)(ReutersMessaging: suilee.wee.reuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: NOBEL MOYAN/

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