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June 27, 2017

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'Red Sorghum' author Mo Yan of China wins Nobel Prize for Literature

STOCKHOLM -- Mo Yan (莫言), one of China's leading writers of the past half-century, on Thursday won the Nobel Prize for Literature for his writing that mixes folk tales, history and the contemporary, the Swedish Academy announced.

"Through a mixture of fantasy and reality, historical and social perspectives, Mo Yan has created a world reminiscent in its complexity of those in the writings of William Faulkner and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, at the same time finding a departure point in old Chinese literature and in oral tradition," the academy said.

This is the first time a Chinese national and the second time a Chinese-born writer has won the prize, after Gao Xingian, who received French citizenship in 1997, was honored in 2000.

Mo Yan, 57, is perhaps best-known abroad for his 1987 novella "Red Sorghum," a tale of the brutal violence that plagued the eastern China countryside — where he grew up — during the 1920s and 30s.

The story was later made into an acclaimed film by leading Chinese director Zhang Yimou, which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin film festival in 1988.

Mo Yan, a pseudonym that means "Don't speak" and whose real name is Guan Moye, "with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary," the jury said.

The Academy's permanent secretary, Peter Englund, said the Academy had spoken to Mo Yan by telephone and quoted the author as saying he was "overjoyed and terrified" at being given the prize.

Mo Yan has published novels, short stories and essays on various topics, and despite his social criticism is seen in his homeland as one of the foremost contemporary authors, the Nobel committee noted.

He has authored other acclaimed works including "Big Breasts and Wide Hips," "Republic of Wine" and "Life and Death are Wearing Me Out."

He has also written dozens of other novels, novellas and short stories, generally eschewing contemporary issues and instead looking back at China's tumultuous 20th century in tales often infused with politics and a dark, cynical sense of humor.

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