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Mo and his hometown mull over financial windfall from prize

Updated: 2012-10-19 01:34
By Xu Wei and Zhang Zixuan ( China Daily)

As the first Chinese citizen to win the Nobel Prize for literature, Mo Yan will dwarf his peers when it comes to royalty income this year, according to the findings of new "rich list" of Chinese writers.

Wu Huaiyao, a literature researcher who has been tracking royalty income of Chinese writers since 2006, predicts Mo can expect in excess of 100 million yuan ($16 million) globally, placing the Nobel laureate's name firmly at the top of his list.

Mo and his hometown mull over financial windfall from prize

Nobel laureate in literature Mo Yan takes questions from reporters in Beijing on Thursday. The writer made his first appearance in Beijing after he won the prize and gave a speech at a seminar held by the Chinese Academy of Arts on Thursday. Liao Pan / China News Service

Mo was announced as the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature on Oct 11.

He sat 20th in Wu's first ranking of royalty income in 2006, with 3.45 million yuan — but his Nobel win puts him back onto the list for the first time since.

Wu said that he expects Mo's royalty income to snowball in the next few years, as his books sell out in stores and online booksellers across the country and beyond.

The expected windfall is clearly playing on the 57-year-old writer's mind too.

In a recent interview with China Central Television, the author joked he had already been thinking about buying a modest apartment in Beijing with the 8 million Sweden krona ($1.2 million) that comes with the Nobel Prize.

Born in 1955 in a village in Gaomi, Shandong province, Mo has been quoted often as experiencing food shortages in his early years, and has used the memories as an inspiration for his work.

In earlier interviews, he admitted that financial reward was one of the key motivations for him to take up writing as a career.

"I heard writers could afford to eat dumplings three times a day," he once said, remembering his favorite meal as a child.

Meanwhile, the local authorities in Gaomi have denied media reports that they had been coming up with plans to boost local tourism income on the back of Mo and his work, after the city gained worldwide attention through his Nobel win.

The Beijing News reported on Thursday that Mo's hometown was mulling over a 670 million yuan investment to boost local tourism, quoting Fan Hui, an official from the administrative committee of a local logistics park, to which Mo's hometown village is subordinate.

"It was only a tentative idea from the official and cannot represent the voice of the city government," said Wang Youzhi, a publicity official of the city.

"Although the idea sounds promising, we are yet to take the whole situation into consideration," he said.

The Beijing News also reported that the local authorities were considering giving subsidies to encourage farmers to grow more than 10,000 mu (667 hectares) of sorghum, to be used in an exhibition to highlight Red Sorghum — a 1987 film about a young woman's life working on a distillery for sorghum liquor, based on a novel by Mo.

To local farmers, sorghum — a species of grasses, one of which is raised for grain and many of which were used as fodder — is a long-outdated agricultural product, due to its poor economic value.

Nie Peng, a local farmer, said that if sorghum does appear once again in the fields of Gaomi, it would be treated as little more than decoration.

"Its use as either as film set or on any tourist site, will need to be carefully examined before putting any money into such an idea," said the 22-year-old farmer, but added there can be some value in combining such an idea with other local culture.

"With a bit of proper planning between the local government and local residents, who knows? But Gaomi can't pin all its future development hopes on Mo alone," he added.

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