December 10, 2012

Humility and compromise are ideal, says Mo Yan, while wearing a shirt printed with his own name


Admittedly, it is a very nice shirt …

This year’s Nobel Laureate in literature, Chinese novelist Mo Yan, gave his acceptance speech to an assembled crowd in Stockholm on Friday. While the rich and prestigious prize is always a cause for controversy, Mo’s receipt of the award has sparked a furor of broader dimensions, perhaps, than even that of Elfriede Jelenik in 2004.

As we’ve mentioned already on MobyLives, the author’s ties to the government have earned him scorn from Chinese dissident communities, his Swedish translator Göran Malmqvist, a member of the Nobel committee, stood to gain financially if the prize went to Mo, and just recently he’s gone on record saying that censorship has its place, comparing it to a necessary inconvenience like airport security — a stance that would seemingly put him very much at odds with the spirit of the Nobel Prize.

Among the most important details to have arisen from the media fervor however, is a China Daily look at Mo’s newly acquired fashion designer Bei Chen. It seems that part of the author’s extensive and much-analysed wardrobe for his various events in Sweden this past weekend was a shirt printed with a pattern made entirely of his own pen name.

Mo has already given the customary lecture, though the prize itself isn’t awarded until Monday. The full transcript of his speech is online on Nobel website, but some points provide such a window into the man’s extensive oeuvre, I think it important to excerpt them below.

The major lessons of the lecture are that Mo has overcome privation far beyond what many of us could understand; that the value of literature is in its imagination, its sense of place, and the moral examples it can provide; that a political reading of fiction is misguided and poor; and lastly that he is being unjustly tarred and feathered for his success. Tar and feathers that happen to delicately spell out the man’s own name on his own shirt.





Dustin Kurtz is the marketing manager of Melville House, and a former bookseller.