Mo Yan’s Nobel Banquet Speech: “When (Literature) Does Not Exist, Our Lives Become Coarsened And Brutal”

I’ll leave the parsing to others, but here’s the body of Mo Yan’s meticulously arranged speech at the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony last night:

I am well aware that there are many writers in the world who would be more worthy Laureates than I. I am convinced that if they only continue to write, if they only believe that literature is the ornament of humanity and a God-given right, “She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.” (Proverbs 4:9)

I am also well aware that literature only has a minimal influence on political disputes or economic crises in the world, but its significance to human beings is ancient. When literature exists, perhaps we do not notice how important it is, but when it does not exist, our lives become coarsened and brutal. For this reason, I am proud of my profession, but also aware of its importance

I want to take this opportunity to express my admiration for the members of the Swedish Academy, who stick firmly to their own convictions. I am confident that you will not let yourselves be affected by anything other than literature.

“Many writers in the world”! Bible quote! Literature as a God-given right!

I am confident that you will not let yourselves be affected by anything other than literature!

What does it all mean? Which parts were written by Mo, and which by the Gaomi, Shandong province government? Which were penned by the inspired graces of good angels, which were muttered with the hot breath of the devil? Which represent fireplaces, safety, comfort in an iron home, which are forest conflagrations choking oxygen out of the very air we breathe? Which are fine, which are loathsome? Which are good, which are bad? Which is Mo, whence does Yan?

Go read these stories about him. Check out his considerably longer lecture. Um, read the Xinhua write-up? Then chatter away.

POSTSCRIPT: Interesting or no? Here’s how Per Wästberg, Swedish Academy member and chairman of the Nobel Committee, began his introduction of Mo:

Mo Yan is a poet who tears down stereotypical propaganda posters, elevating the individual from an anonymous human mass. Using ridicule and sarcasm Mo Yan attacks history and its falsifications as well as deprivation and political hypocrisy. Playfully and with ill-disguised delight, he reveals the murkiest aspects of human existence, almost inadvertently finding images of strong symbolic weight.

4 Responses to “Mo Yan’s Nobel Banquet Speech: “When (Literature) Does Not Exist, Our Lives Become Coarsened And Brutal””

  1. King Baeksu

    I wish they had given it to Liao Yiwu. “The Corpse Walker” is an amazing book, and wholly original. It certainly meets Kafka’s belief that “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.”

    It would have also been so much more fun to see that hard-drinking, bald-headed old coot take on the entire CCP from the safety of Europe, rather than being served this soggy, pre-masticated pap.

    Reply
  2. King Baeksu

    “I am well aware that there are many writers in the world who would be more worthy Laureates than I. I am convinced that if they only continue to write, if they only believe that literature is the ornament of humanity and a God-given right, “She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.” (Proverbs 4:9)”

    Mo Yan has committed the first sin of writing here: Being totally fucking boring!

    Reply
  3. King Baeksu

    “Mo Yan is a poet who tears down stereotypical propaganda posters, elevating the individual from an anonymous human mass. Using ridicule and sarcasm Mo Yan attacks history and its falsifications as well as deprivation and political hypocrisy. Playfully and with ill-disguised delight, he reveals the murkiest aspects of human existence, almost inadvertently finding images of strong symbolic weight.”

    Translation: Care to buy some nice Swedish herring, y’all?

    Love the patronizing “inadvertently” at the end. Is Mo Yan the new William S. Burroughs, a glorious Chinese master of the cut-up?

    Lol.

    Reply

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