China / Society

Mo Yan sparks discussion about Chinese literature

(Xinhua) Updated: 2012-10-13 13:05

BEIJING - Hailing Mo Yan as the first Chinese citizen that won the Nobel Prize in Literature, the public has started to contemplate the way to enhance Chinese literature's global presence.

The prize indicates that Chinese contemporary authors and their works are getting the world's attention, which prompts writers and amateurs to continue their pursuit, according to Wang Meng, a renowned Chinese writer.

But "the prize came a little late," said Xue Yongwu, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Journalism and Communication with Ocean University of China (OUC).

There have been many accomplished writers of modern and contemporary literature in China, including Lu Xun, Ba Jin and Mao Dun, who should have won the prize earlier, he noted.

China's splendid ancient literature, which extends thousands of years, has been widely acknowledged across the world. However, the contemporary literature failed to get enough recognition from outside the country due to its short history and complex political influences, he explained.

Language has also been a barrier. Only a small proportion of Chinese literature has been translated into foreign languages, mainly English. The quality of some translated editions needs improvement, said Xue.

In addition to language skills, translation requires high-level comprehension and interpretation of culture and art. It's hard for people without any literature background to produce a translation that fully reserves the aesthetic sense of the original version, according to Ren Dongsheng, professor with the College of Foreign Languages of OUC.

The 57-year-old writer is known for his depiction of Chinese rural life. The settings for his works range from the 1911 revolution, Japan's invasion to Cultural Revolution.

Mo combines hallucinatory realism with folk tales, which is more appealing to the taste of Western readers than the styles adopted by many of his peers, such as Yu Hua, Su Tong and Wang Shuo, said Zhang Hongsheng, dean of the Literature Department of the Communication University of China.

However, "Nobel Prize is not the sole standard to judge the achievements of a writer. Prizes presented by different organizations adopt various evaluation criteria," said Xu Yan, a literature critic.

The quality of a literary work is always judged by the topic, language, structure, the way of story-telling, imagination and some other significant elements. People's tastes vary amid different social background and cultural mechanism, she added.

Chinese contemporary literature, which loomed in 1949, has seen a trend of diversification since the country adopted the market economy in 1992.

"The prize is a positive sign that the West begins to recognize Chinese literature. But it's an acknowledgement of individual efforts, and Chinese literature revival still has a long way to go," said Zhang.

Xue called upon Chinese writers to produce quality works with international perspectives. Good literature should reveal social problems and people's concerns while create the beauty of art.

"The society should provide favorable environment for the growth of Chinese writers," he stressed.

Seeking increasing world attention requires Chinese writers to maintain the national characteristics and uniqueness. "Chinese elements are the last to lose in successful writings," Zhang said.

China's book market has witnessed booming sales of Mo's masterpieces over the past days.

Zhicheng Classic Bookstore, registered at T-Mall of China's largest online retailer, said 1,500 volumes of Mo's latest novel Frog were sold out in six hours after Mo won the prize. The store has received 1,200 reservation orders by 3:30 pm Friday.

The book, about China's family-planning policy, also moved up to 14th from 560th on the list of the most populous book at the withinin two days.

Cao Yuanyong, deputy editor-in-chief of Shanghai Literature and Art Publishing Group, said the company is producing the new edition of a collection of Mo's 16 works, which is expected to refill the empty shelves of many book retailers in a week.

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