And the Nobel in Literature Goes to...

Monday October 29, 2012

By Guide Biography: Patrick Kennedy

Mo Yan, Chinese novelist. Whether you were expecting this or not (and most people weren't), it does seem that our friends in Sweden have found an intriguing author. In the words of his Nobel Prize citation, Yan is an writer "who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history, and the contemporary." You'll find the same spirit of miscellany in authors like Gabriel García Márquez (who won a Nobel of his own) and Italo Calvino (who never did).

I'll leave it up to you to decide whether Mo Yan is the "Chinese García Márquez," or better, or worse. I'll say more, and post a Mo Yan author biography, pretty soon. But for today, let's discuss the authors who didn't win the 2012 Nobel. For quite some time, Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami seemed to have the best odds of taking home this year's award. No such luck, but he did get a nice consolation prize: an appreciative New Yorker profile, The Harukists, Disappointed".

And there's another silver lining. It is possible that Mo Yan's Nobel will encourage Western readers to take a harder look at Asian literature generally, Murakami's included. In fact, if you check my Literature in Translation site, you'll discover profiles of Asian greats like Yasunari Kawabata and Junichiro Tanizaki. I can't go on profiling Kafka and Tolstoy forever, can I? Trust me, these guys are all in the same league.

What will be the consequences of Mo Yan's unexpected victory? Are you dying to read Red Sorghum, The Garlic Ballads, or any of his other books? Or are shaking your head and wondering, yet again, why Philip Roth was denied a Nobel. Again! There are plenty of these head-shakers, and I'll address your disappointment in my next post. For now, Mo Yan, congratulations!


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