That was my first thought when Mo Yan became the first Chinese citizen to win the Nobel Prize for Literature earlier this week. (I had thought Murakami had it all sewn up.)
Unlike Liu Xiaobo who won the Nobel Peace Prize two years ago, Mo is no political dissident. He is hugely popular in China for his well-written portraits of rural life. The Swedish academy had this to say, “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 García Márquez, at the same time finding a departure point in old Chinese literature and in oral tradition.”
Sounds good to me, but we at North Vancouver City Library currently own only a single English translation of Mo’s works – Red Sorghum. That’s a starting point, but, while we’re waiting for copies of his other works to arrive, I’m going to embrace the comments of Nicky Harman in last Thursday’s Guardian. Harman a Chinese translator and lecturer at Imperial College, London, said, “[Mo]’s a great writer and will now be better known. That’s good news for all Chinese writers, because it will bring English readers a bit closer.”
So who are some Chinese writers we can cozy up with right now? Why not check out:
Dai Sijie (Chinese-born, French citizen).
Start with Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress: A hidden stash of Western classics inspire two boys sent to the countryside for ‘re-education’ during Mao’s cultural revolution.
Ha Jin (Chinese-born, American citizen)
Start with War Trash: Yu Yuan, a Chinese army officer and POW, becomes an unofficial interpreter between the American prison guards and the other captured soldiers.
Start with Empress Orchid: Orchid competes with hundreds of other women to become the Emperor’s seductress in this historical novels set in the Ch’ing Dynasty. It’s an epic story, full of palace intrigue.
Gao Xingjian (Chinese-born, French citizen)
Start with Soul Mountain: This Nobel prizewinning author describes his 15000 km journey to escape Communist China in this moving novel.
Qiu Xiaolong (Chinese-born, American citizen)
Start with A Loyal Character Dancer: A police procedural set during the complicated time when China was moving away from Communism and toward a more capitalist point of view. The second in the Chief Inspector Chen Cao series.
Yu Hua (Chinese)
Start with Brothers: A sly, scandalous and surreal tale of two brothers told over a period of forty years.
According to a Chinese proverb, “A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.” Enjoy the blooms that make up the window box of our Chinese literature collection.