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Chinese students will study laureate's works

Updated: 2012-10-15 09:34
By Cheng Yingqi and Luo Wangshu ( China Daily)

After winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, Mo Yan will soon have the honor of having tens of millions of Chinese high school students exposed to his work in textbooks.

Related: Mo Yan Special

The Language and Culture Press under the Ministry of Education said on Saturday that it has decided to add one of Mo's novellas, A Transparent Carrot, to textbooks now being complied for high school students who take certain elective Chinese courses.

By its decision, the press, which publishes textbooks and teaching materials for primary and secondary schools, places the new Nobel winner in the same league as Lao She, Lu Xun and a number of Chinese and foreign writers whose works appear in the textbooks read by more than 25 million high school students across the country.

A Transparent Carrot, published in 1985, depicts the lives and inner worlds of ordinary Chinese people in the countryside. The novella, which contains stylistic features that would eventually become characteristic of Mo's writing, quickly gained renown for its sharp descriptions that verge on the fantastical.

Zhang Xiafang, a staff member of the high school educational research group of the Language and Culture Press, said the Nobel Prize certainly helped editors to decide to pick Mo's work for inclusion in the textbook.

"The prize is a really big deal in Chinese literary circles," Zhang was quoted as saying by Beijing Times on Sunday. "This is a historic event. So letting our students know about his work is necessary."

Zhang said the novella will appear in the textbook that will start to be used in the spring. Also in the textbook will be 40 other literary masterpieces by renowned writers from China and abroad.

Wang Xuming, president of the Language and Culture Press, confirmed the news about Mo's work on Sunday.

The decision, made two days after the announcement of Mo's receipt of the prize, elicited praise from many teachers.

Zhang Ting, a Chinese literature teacher at the Beijing No 5 High School, said it is important that students be exposed to modernistic works written by Chinese authors.

"Many of my students love works of modern Western literature, such as One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez," Zhang said. "It's absolutely OK for them to love modern Western literature, and there is nothing wrong with them choosing what kind of works they want to read. But students should know more about modern Chinese works."

The reading textbooks now in use in most Chinese high schools contain only a single article by a contemporary writer - Yu Hua's Leaving Home at Eighteen - and students are, as a result, less familiar than they should be with contemporary Chinese literature, she said.

"Now Mo has won the Nobel Prize," Zhang said. "I hope this is not only an achievement for Chinese literature, but also a chance for young people to receive an education in contemporary Chinese literature."

Some critics said the decision to place Mo's work in the textbook was not made for the right reasons, noting that it only came after he received the Nobel Prize.

"Mo's novella was published many, many years ago," said Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, a non-governmental research organization. "Why are these editors putting his work into textbooks only after he received the Nobel Prize?

"The Nobel Prize should not be the only criterion used to measure the educational value of teaching materials, but this seems to be how things are done now."

Zhou Limin, a writer from Shanghai, said on his micro blog on Sunday: "I'm not opposed to letting students read Mo's literature. I only dislike it that textbook editors are blindly chasing after the Nobel Prize without using their own judgment."

Another concern is that high school students will find it hard to understand Mo's works, which consist mainly of social commentary, critics said.

Besides seeing his work placed in textbooks, Mo can bask in a few other glories stemming from his receipt of the Nobel Prize.

His books have sold out at many bookstores, two of his works are to be translated into Russian and published before the end of the year, and stamps commemorating his achievement have been issued in Shandong province, where Mo was born and now lives.

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