left corner left corner
China Daily Website

Nobel Prize recognizes more than Chinese literature

Updated: 2012-10-12 15:14
( Xinhua)

BEIJING - Author Mo Yan on Thursday became the first Chinese national to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, an honor seen as a landmark recognition of contemporary Chinese literature.

As soon as the Swedish Academy in Stockholm announced the award, numerous Chinese people voiced their excitement on the Internet. The news then dominated Chinese newspaper headlines on Friday.

Authors in China said the prize showed the country's contemporary literature has gained the world's attention, and it will be a great encouragement for Chinese writers.

Despite lack of acclaim for contemporary Chinese literature over the past three decades, Mo said there are many world-class works coming out of the country, partly because authors have learned a lot from their Western colleagues.

However, learning from Western literature does not mean mimicking. In the 1980s, Chinese writers were simply imitating peers abroad but soon gave it up when they found it fruitless.

"When a country's literature wants to gain a position on the world stage, it must have a distinctive style," Mo told an audience at the 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair.

He won the prestigious prize for his work merging folk tales, history and the contemporary with hallucinatory realism. His novels, including his most celebrated Red Sorghum and Big Breast and Wide Hips, have been translated into dozens of foreign languages.

In a country with a long history and great civilization, many Chinese writers have influenced generations of people both home and abroad through their masterpieces. It was a pity and pain for Chinese readers that the Nobel Prize in literature had never fallen on a Chinese national before.

Mo's success can also be seen as a sign that China is getting recognition from the rest of the world not just for its literature, but more broadly.

The country's opening up has provided ample room for Chinese literature to flourish since the 1980s. Compared to politically motivated literature before 1978, contemporary Chinese writers apply more retrospection to society.

"A writer should express criticism and indignation at the dark side of society and the ugliness of human nature," according to Mo. "Some may want to shout on the street, but we should tolerate those who hide in their rooms and use literature to voice their opinions."

Without China's opening up and reform policy, his ilk would not have flourished.

In recent years, China not only opened its arms to foreign literature, but also made an effort to introduce its writers to the outside world.

One of the major steps is that China's flagship literature magazine, People's Literature, launched an English version last November to boost the global impact of contemporary Chinese literature. Entitled "Pathlight," the first English issue included translations of 17 Chinese writers' works.

In fact, opening up and reform have benefited far more than literature. China has grown into the world's second-largest economy, lifted hundreds of millions of people from poverty, and become a major player in international affairs over the past three decades.

It has taken a development path different from the West, and that has also proven successful.

Granting the Nobel prize to a Chinese writer not only expands the Nobel Committee's influence to the world's most populous country, but also makes it possible for more people to read about China and its people; thus, they will see a real and more objective presentation of the country, instead of a mysterious and sometimes demonized China.

As the bestowal of the Nobel Prize shows recognition of China in the field of literature, the country's involvement in major world events will be indispensable, and it is not late to acknowledge this.