Top 10 Classic Works of Mo Yan

In 2012, Chinese writer Mo Yan (Chinese: 莫言, born on 17 Feb 1955) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Nobel Committee described Mo Yan as writing with “hallucinatory realism that merges folk tales, history and the contemporary.” Here we compile a list of his 10 most classic works for readers. Leave comments below and vote for your favorite book.

1. Red Sorghum Clan《红高粱家族》 (1993)

Red Sorghum ClanRed Sorghum is one of Mo’s early novels and remains one of his best-known works. Mo Yan wrote the three generations of a rural family in Shandong Province between 1923 and 1976. The story details the family’s struggles during China’s major historical events, including the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression. The novel was adapted to the film Red Sorghum in 1987 by famous Chinese director Zhang Yimou and won Silver Bear at the 1988 Berlin Film Festival.

2. 《丰乳肥臀》 Big Breasts & Wide Hips (2004)

Big Breasts Wide HipsBig Breasts and Wide Hips tells the story of how a mom endured every bit of hardship to bring up and save the lives of her children and grandchildren through the 20th century. The Washington Post praises it as “broad and bold … It’s fiction in the grand, triple-decker tradition.”  Mo Yan considers this book as his spiritual biography.

3. The Republic of Wine: A Novel《酒国》 (2000)

The Republic of Wine A NovelThe Republic of Wine: A Novel is a satirical novel. It explores the relationship between Chinese people and food and drink, and comments on government corruption and excesses. Mo Yan himself believes it to be a perfect novel.

4. Sandalwood Death《檀香刑》(2013)

Sandalwood DeathSandalwood Death is set during the Boxer Rebellion (1898-1901). The novel centers on the relationship between a woman, Sun Meiniang, and three paternal figures in her life, including her biological father, Sun Bing. It also presents both a stirring love story and an unsparing critique of political corruption during the final years of the Qing Dynasty. It has been translated into English by Howard Goldblatt.

5.  The Garlic Ballads《天堂蒜之歌》(1995)

The Garlic BalladsThe novel The Garlic Ballads is considered as one of Mo’s best shorter novels. The novel tells a fiercely lyrical story of a Chinese garlic farmer’s 1988 revolt. Local farmers are told by the government to grow garlic only, and when the government refuses to purchase the crop one year, the townspeople resort to violence but are rounded up and put in jail. Through the novel Mo Yan portrays the harsh realities of an existence difficulty of Chinese farmers.

6.  Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out《生死疲劳》(2008)

Life and Death Are Wearing Me OutLife and Death Are Wearing Me Out is a 2006 novel. This historical fiction explores China’s development during the latter half of the 20th century through the eyes of a noble and generous landowner who is killed and reincarnated as various farm animals in rural China. The interesting part is that the story is told from several animals’ perspective.

7. Swing Hanger of White Dog《白狗秋千架》(1981-1989)

Swing Hanger of White DogSwing Hanger of White Dog (Chinese Edition) is a selection of Mo Yan’s short stories. It collects 30 short stories created from 1981 to 1989, among which seven stories including Rain in Spring Nights, Ugly Soldier and Dark Sand Beach are very precious. These stories include the critical revelation of cruel reality in China rural areas, simple touching love stories and all sorts of absurd but realistic ecstatic legends.

8. Frog《蛙》 (2009)

frogChina’s family planning policy has long been a topic that writers have dared not touch upon and few literary works have dealt with the subject. And this is a great novel which touches this sensitive topic. The novel Frog ( Simplified Chinese) gives a unique perspective on life over the past 60 years from the perspective of a local female doctor who specialized in child birth. Through the doctor’ story, the novel tells the consequences of the single-child policy implemented in China.

9. Joy《欢乐》 (1980s)

joyJoy (Chinese Edition) is one of the most famous novellas and also the title of this 8 novellas collection. In the novella, Mo Yan presents a dilemma of a rural youth who wants to leap out the environment but cannot get rid of the tough environmental burden on him. Through a rural boy’s dashed dream of hoping to change his fate through college entrance exam, the novel reflects on the meaning of fate.

10.《四十一炮》Pow! (2013)

PowPow! is a red-toothed fantasia about meat production and meat consumption. The novel’s protagonist is Luo Xiaotong, a village boy with adult body but a child’s heart. He describes the difficult circumstances of his childhood in the “Slaughterhouse Village,” a fictional town in which the population is obsessed with the consumption of meat and where corruption is rife.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *