Mo's work in hot demand as he declares: Literature is useless

Updated: 2012-12-12 08:32

By Mei Jia in Beijing and Diao Ying in Stockholm (China Daily)

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 Mo's work in hot demand as he declares: Literature is useless

The 2012 Nobel Prize Laureate for Literature Mo Yan receives his Nobel Prize from Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf during the award ceremony at Stockholm City Hall in Sweden on Monday. Henrik Montgomery / Scanpix Sweden via Associated Press

Chinese writer Mo Yan said literature is useless compared with science in his Nobel banquet speech at Stockholm City Hall on Monday.

But in his home country, Mo's literature has never been so popular, with a new collection of his works and an Apple app with digital versions of his books launched in Beijing on Tuesday.

"Now that Mo has accepted the award from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, we hope the release of his collected writings will be the best present to mark the historic moment Chinese literature took its place on the world stage," said Shi Xiang, chief executive of Mo Yan's copyright agency Genuine and Profound Culture Development Co.

Two versions of Mo Yan's 20-volume collection in hardcover are now available, one in simple packaging, and another in deluxe packaging.

The collection covers Mo's works from novellas and novels to short stories, essays, interviews and speeches. It is said to be the first complete collection of the Nobel Prize-winner's work. It also includes Mo's criticism of his own work.

An authorized app was also launched through the online Apple store, with each digital book selling for less than half price of the physical book.

"We hope to set the norm for the e-book market, and thus protect writers' from piracy," Shi said.

Editors received feedback from Mo, who said the e-book is simple to operate and to browse.

"I hope it offers convenient access for young readers to approach my works," Mo said.

The first Chinese Nobel laureate received the Nobel diploma, medal and a document confirming the prize of 8 million Swedish krona ($1.14 million) from the King of Sweden on Monday.

Per Wastberg, a writer, member of the Swedish Academy and chairman of the Nobel committee, said there is "never a dull moment" in Mo's writing. "He seems to carry all human life on the tip of his pen," Wastberg said.

"In Mo Yan, a forgotten peasant world arises, alive and well, before our eyes, sensually scented even in its most pungent vapors, startlingly merciless but tinged by joyful selflessness.

"Playfully, and with ill-disguised delight, he reveals the murkiest aspects of human existence, almost inadvertently finding images of strong symbolic weight."

At the banquet, Mo, who always insists that he is simply the son of a peasant, dressed in a black tuxedo and white tie for the event.

Unlike other laureates, he made his speech without a manuscript. He said he forgot his original speech in the hotel, but the words were all already in his mind.

The speech turned out to be a spontaneous one, different from the version posted on the website and sent to the media beforehand.

He was calm and relaxed, and his talk touched upon the two most important themes for him as a person and a writer - his peasant roots, and the significance of literature.

"Compared with science, literature is useless. But to me, the most useful thing about literature is its uselessness," Mo said.

He also expressed his gratitude to translators. Without their work, literature would not become world literature, he said.

Mo said he views the award in a detached way.

"Many interesting things have happened since the (announcement of the) award. It shows the unshakable importance of the Nobel Prize in the world," he said.

"I am the son of a peasant from Shandong Gaomi, and I am able to get this award in such a splendid palace.

"This sounds like a fairytale, but it is certainly true."

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(China Daily 12/12/2012 page11)