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Nobel prize buzz expands Mo Yan's readership
Xinhua | October 12, 2012 19:17
By Agencies
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In a bookstore in downtown Beijing, a 30-year-old woman surnamed Liu hurried to a shelf holding books by Mo Yan, China's new Nobel laureate. When asked what she wanted to buy, Liu said "whatever is left on the shelf."

Many others have joined Liu since the Thursday announcement of Mo as the 2012 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, even those who have no idea who the man is.

Cheng Yongxin, deputy editor-in-chief of literary magazine Harvest, said Mo was previously read by writers and people working in the literary field. However, the buzz created by his Nobel Prize win has expanded his readership.

Wang Lixing, senior editor of Yilin Press and former editor-in-chief of Translations, a foreign literature magazine, said the increase in his works' popularity has largely been driven by people who are not actually familiar with literature.

Those who have latched on to his works are not driven out of interest in literature, but by the sensational nature of the prize, Wang said.

Beijing taxi driver Shan Haijun said he'd never heard of the writer and was surprised to learn that award-winning director Zhang Yimou's film "Red Sorghum" was adapted from a novel by Mo.

In a foreign language bookstore located in Beijing's Wangfujing shopping area, a woman surnamed Han bought the English versions of Mo's books "Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out" and "Red Sorghum" as gifts for her foreign friends.

She also purchased copies for herself, as she's never actually read the writer's works.

The buying spree surrounding Mo's writing has emptied shelves in some major bookstores since the Thursday announcement.

"Book lovers engulfed the stands, snapping up Mo's most famous works," said Ge Fei, vice manager of Wangfujing Bookstore. "By this morning, all Mo's works were sold out."

One of the store's employees said 40 customers had reserved some of Mo's books by Friday afternoon, with one customer asking for 11 copies of each of his works.

Beijing Book Building, another local bookstore, is now asking publishing companies to send more copies of Mo's work "Frogs," which was snapped up shortly after the announcement.

Sales of Mo's translated books have surged at Beijing's Foreign Language Bookstore, with many copies going to foreigners or people who wish to give the book to their foreign friends.

Literary experts have welcomed the attention that is now being paid to their field.

Wen Rumin, a professor of Chinese literature at Peking University and chairman of the Modern Chinese Literature Association, said Mo's growing popularity is easy to understand, as the Nobel Prize in Literature has vast global influence.

Mo's win will raise awareness of the value of modern Chinese literature and arouse greater interest in pure literature, Wen said.

Wang said the prize could result in the cultivation of more literature readers and subsequently help the field develop.

"As someone who loves literature, I hope it will be so," Wang said.

Cheng said the prize will arouse enthusiasm about literature and boost Chinese writers' confidence, as well as alleviate the marginalization of literature in modern times.

Mo Yan, a pseudonym for Guan Moye, was born in 1955 and grew up in Gaomi in east China's Shandong Province.

In his writing, Mo draws on his youth and the province of his birth, which are most apparent in his novel "Red Sorghum," which was made into a film by director Zhang Yimou.

"Big Breasts and Wide Hips" and "Life and Death are Wearing Me Out" are also among his most famous works. His works have been translated and published in English, French, Swedish, Spanish, German, Italian and Japanese.

In Mo's works, "hallucinatory realism merges with folk tales, history and the contemporary," according to the official Nobel citation.

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