Mo Yan wins the Nobel Prize in Literature

Chinese author's "hallucinatory realism" is rewarded.

The 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to the Chinese novelist Mo Yan. The Prize committee commended Mo's "hallucinatory realism", which "merges folk tales, history and the contemporary". Several of Mo's novels have been translated into English, including Red Sorghum (also adapted for the cinema), The Garlic Ballads and Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out.

Pre-prize rumours suggested the recipient this year might be Canadian short story writer Alice Munro, but for the fifth year running, the jury has ignored anglophone writers.

Chinese Nobel Laureate Mo Yan (Photograph: Getty Images)
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Poem: "When the Americans came"

“Do you have vampires around here?”

When the Americans came,

they didn’t take to our gardens:

the apple orchard smelling of wild garlic,

foxgloves growing among the runner beans.


“Do you have vampires around here?”

a visitor from Carolina asked me.

It was a shambles, Wilfred knew that,

nodding wisely as though apologising


for the ill manners of King George,

the clematis purple in the thatched roofing.

But come the softe sonne,

there are oxlips in Fry’s woods,


forget-me-nots in the shallow stream,

lettuce and spring onions for a salad.

It’s certain that fine women eat

A crazy salad with their meat*


I tried to tell them. But they weren’t women,

and didn’t care to listen to a boy.

They preferred the red rosehips

we used for making wine.


Danced outside the village church

round the maypole Jack Parnham made.

Now they’re gone,

the wild garlic has returned.


* W B Yeats, “A Prayer for My Daughter”


William Bedford is a novelist, children’s author and poet. His eighth collection of verse, The Bread Horse, is published by Red Squirrel Press.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood