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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”.
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