Daily Archives: October 11, 2012

In his latest dispatch from the US, John McDermott tells of an unfortunate automobile accident – and a fortunate meeting. Read more

Esther Bintliff

A poster of author Mo Yan, at the Frankfurt Book Fair on October 11 (JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/GettyImages)

The 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature has gone to Chinese author Mo Yan. It’s an interesting – and in some respects controversial – decision for the Swedish Academy, because unlike the winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace prize, Mo Yan is an apparent supporter of China’s authoritarian regime. The FT’s Jamil Anderlini, Leslie Hook and Lorien Kite explain: “Mr Mo is a Communist party member and former soldier in the People’s Liberation Army. As vice-chairman of the government’s China Writers Association he holds a semi-official role in the Chinese political system.” Yet Mo has not always been so loved by the government; his novel The Garlic Ballads was banned in China for a period after its release, and his characterisation of those in power is often far from complimentary. Perhaps, as John Updike wrote in a 2005 review, “Mo Yan’s fate is to operate on the edge of official constraints”.

  • Time magazine interviewed Mo in March 2010. Reporter Simon Elegant argued: “By placing much of his writing in the past, and through the adroit subtlety of his magic-realist style, Mo Yan avoids stirring up the animosity of the country’s ever vigilant censors any more than he needs to”.
  • What to read if you want to get a flavour of Mo’s prize-winning writing? The academy’s permanent secretary, Peter Englund, recommended The Garlic Ballads, written by Mo in the 1980s, as a good starting point. This New York Times review from 1995 praised it as “raw, brilliant, eventful”, and described Mo as “a kind of Chinese magical realist whose stories, grounded in gritty naturalism, in the smells and fluids of real life, are nonetheless full of hallucination, demonic possession and the grotesquery of dreams”. For a list of Mo’s major works – and their translations – the Nobel prize website has published a ‘bio-bibliography’ here.

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Here are the stories that were stoking our fire this morning:

Gideon Rachman

Protesters in Shenzhen burn a Japanese flag during a demonstration over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands (Peter Parks/AFP/GettyImages)

Just when the Japanese thought it was safe to get back in the water, the news that high-level Chinese delegates have stayed away from the IMF meetings in Tokyo has underlined the fact that China is not letting go of the dispute over the islands variously known as the Senkaku or Diaoyu.

It is not just China that is the problem. In recent months, Japan has also clashed with Russia and South Korea over disputed islands. Japanese nationalists always demand a strong response in these cases. But even more moderate voices in Tokyo are worrying that the country’s neighbours now see Japan as weak – and liable to be pushed around. Read more

Welcome to the US election round-up on the morning of the vice presidential debate in Kentucky.

While the deputies were doggedly learning their lines in debate preparation sessions, the presidential candidates hit the road in swing states again. The campaigns are heading to Florida and North Carolina for Democrats and Republicans respectively. Read more

Hugo Chavez returns to power
What does Hugo Chavez’s return to power in Venezuela mean for his country, for Latin America, and for international politics? Gideon Rachman is joined by Richard Lapper, a Latin America expert who heads the FT’s research on Brazil, and Phil Gunson, the Economist’s correspondent in Caracas.