Last Thursday, we book nerds waited–ripe with anticipation–for the announcement of the 2012 Nobel Laureate in Literature. Everyone had their own ideas of who was worthy. Even people who don’t usually give a fig about books wanted to have their say. On the subway I overheard several Swedes griping how unfair it was that Astrid Lindgren or Bob Dylan never received the prize. On TV, talking heads blathered on about how this was the year Joyce Carol Oates would receive it. Haruki Murakami‘s name came up several times. Heck, even I was convinced that Murakami was a shoe-in. I figured the Svenska Akademien would never give the prize to my personal favorite (Milan Kundera). I think Horace Engdahl and company have blacklisted him (and Joyce Carol Oates for that matter).
No one mentioned Mo Yan.
So when the announcement was made, I readily admit I was one of those people who said, “Mo who?” I Googled him. I looked him up on Wikipedia to get an idea of just who he was and what he’d written. I can safely say that I have never read any of his books but I’ve seen a movie based on one of them (Red Sorghum, which also marked the film debut of my favorite Chinese actresses, Gong Li).
Something I find interesting with Mo Yan’s receiving the prize is that so many people feel embarrassed about not knowing who he is or what he’s written. Somehow, they don’t seem to grasp the idea that one of the reasons the Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded to a writer is to bring attention to work that may have gone unnoticed. And really, there are so many writers and books out there that no one can claim to have read every single work ever written. That’s one of the joys of books–for every tome you read, there are even more just waiting for you to discover them.
So my plan is explore Mo Yan’s literary works. I’ve decided to order three of his books and spend part of this chilly autumn and winter reading them. The three titles I’ll be reading are The Republic of Wine, Big Breasts and Wide Hips and Shifu: You’ll Do Anything for a Laugh. I hope the English Bookshop in Gamla Stan will be able to help me with my order.
And so a personal message to Mo Yan: my heartfelt congratulations to you on being awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature. I have never read your work but I plan to make up for it.
What will you be reading this autumn, and who did you think was going to receive this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature?