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Writer Mo Yan Wins Nobel Prize, Spurs Mixed Reaction from Fellow Chinese

October 11, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
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TRANSCRIPT

JEFFREY BROWN: The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded today. Because it went to a Chinese writer, it stirred unusual interest and reaction.

The official announcement came in Stockholm, Sweden.

PETER ENGLUND, Permanent Secretary, Swedish Academy: The Nobel Prize in literature for 2012 is awarded to the Chinese writer Mo Yan, who, with hallucinatory realism, merges folktales, history and the contemporary.

JEFFREY BROWN: The 57-year-old Mo was recognized for popular short stories and novels based on life in rural China, including “Red Sorghum” and “The Garlic Ballads.”

Many ordinary Chinese hailed the choice.

ZHENG QINGCHENG, China (through translator): I am proud of him as Chinese. I saw the news just now. The Nobel Prize is a world-class prize. He is great. I am so happy for him.

JEFFREY BROWN: And the selection was a hit with the Chinese government, too. In a rare move, state-run television broke away from its newscast to announce the Nobel Prize.

The regime had shunned two previous Chinese laureates, jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo won the Peace Prize in 2010, and Gao Xingjian, a critic of Beijing’s policies who’d become a French citizen, won the literature prize in 2000.

In a turnabout, the selection of Mo drew fire from some dissidents, including the artist Ai Weiwei, who accused him of being too close to China’s Communist Party. He said in a statement, “I think the Nobel organizers have removed themselves from reality by awarding this prize.”

The Swedish Academy said it based its decision on literary merit alone and didn’t consider reaction in the winner’s homeland.