“I think this comes at a really important time for Chinese literature. China is an extremely literate and energetic society. The bookstores are full. There’s a lot of interesting writing going on now,” said Larry Siems of Pen American Center — which promotes literary freedom and free exchange of literature around the world.
Mo, Siems said, is one of the most notable writers to come out of a system that’s been “a rigid combination of patronage and censorship.” Mo has produced compelling literature as he navigated that line, he said, but many in China think the author has been too “reticent” on some topics.
Siems said the award is “a really good thing for Chinese literature.”
“I think in some ways, the award may be recognizing the fact that there’s lively literature happening in China and I hope this stimulates people to read Chinese writers, not only Mo Yan,” he added.
Patrick Poon, executive secretary of the independent Chinese Pen Center, said Mo is famous for the book on the country’s policy that restricts couples — with few exceptions — to having one child.
Poon called Mo “one of the most influential” contemporary writers and a “good writer.” However, he said, there are better and bolder writers who didn’t get a Nobel. He said he senses that the award appears to be a recognition of — or trying to please — the Chinese government.
“I don’t think it’s a very wrong decision to give it to Mo Yan,” he said. But “we can’t understand it.”
However, Poon said, now that Mo won the prize, maybe he can ask the Chinese government to free the more than three dozen or so imprisoned writers in the country.
“He should have this responsibility,” Poon said.