Mo Yan honors the writers he calls his teachers

By Diao Ying in Stockholm ( China Daily ) Updated: 2012-12-11 10:24:26

The night before Nobel laureate author Mo Yan picked up his award, he spoke to Swedish students in a cinema prior to the screening of the 1987 film Red Sorghum based on his namesake novel.

He says watching the old movie, which hoisted him to international fame, reminds him of his youth.

Related: Award puts Chinese books on world stage

"I'd give up all my awards to return to my youth," he says.

A photo of Mo Yan and the film crew quickly spread on China's Internet after his Nobel win.

The picture shows Mo Yan, director Zhang Yimou and actor Jiang Wen standing shirtless next to actress Gong Li.

Mo Yan says the photo was taken 25 years ago in the courtyard of his house in Gaomi, Shandong province.

Related: Mo Yan pays homage to Chinese writers

They were all young. Zhang was the oldest at 35. Gong was a 21-year-old college student.

"We weren't famous then," he says.

Mo Yan honors the writers he calls his teachers

"Now we all are - but we're also old. I can't write another fiction work like Red Sorghum, and Zhang can't make such a film again."

Mo Yan remembers feeling rich when Zhang paid him 800 yuan ($130) for the novel's copyright.

"It was enough to buy a cow in my hometown," the author recalls.

"I was very happy that I could trade a story for a cow."

Mo Yan believes the film's success hails from the characters' fearlessness in their pursuit of freedom, which matched China's spiritual zeitgeist in the 1980s.

"I can proudly say the film did well because I wrote the fiction well," Mo Yan says.

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