Mo Yan 莫言
Winner of 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature
A Visual Tribute to Mo Yan
Red Sorghum: Wikipedia's Entry on the Film based on the Novel
The film takes place in a rural village in China's eastern province of Shandong during the Second Sino-Japanese War. It is narrated from the point of view of the protagonist’s grandson, who reminisces about his grandmother, Jiu'er (S: 九儿, T: 九兒, P: Jiǔ'ér). She was a poor girl who was sent by her parents into a pre-arranged marriage with an older man. This man, Li Datou, who owned a distillery, suffered from leprosy.
As her wedding party crosses a field of sorghum, they are attacked by a bandit with a pistol. The hired sedan carrier fights off the assailant and a series of subtly flirtatious looks are exchanged. After she reaches the winery, the man disappears. He returns to the screen while Jiu'er is returning from her parents' house. We see him wearing the same mask as the man who attacked them three days before. He kidnaps Jiu'er and after a short chase, reveals his identity. He then clears some sorghum and they engage in sexual intercourse.
After the leper was mysteriously murdered, the young widow takes over the distillery, which has fallen on hard times. She inspires the workers to take new pride in their wine, and once again meets the man who saved her life and then deflowered her. He arrives drunk and tries to claim her, telling the distillery workers how he deflowered her and that he is going to sleep in her room, but she tosses him out and he makes a fool of himself in his drunken rudeness. He sleeps in a liquor vat for three days, while the bandits kidnapped Jiu'er and asked for ransom, which the distillery workers paid. The bandits did not rape her because she told them she had slept with her deceased husband, the leper.
Later, the man who had intercourse with her comes back again, when they make the first batch of liquor He takes four vats of the liquor and urinates in them, shocking the employees. He meant it to anger Jiu'er, but somehow his urine makes the liquor taste better than ever before. The longtime distiller, Luohan, leaves in disgust, presumably because of her affair with the hired bearer and the resultant bastard son, the narrator's father.
The style of the film shifts from fable to realism when the War begins and the Imperial Japanese Army troops invade the area. The Japanese soldiers order forced laborers to flatten the sorghum fields. The widow Jiu'er and the winery workers are among the forced laborers. They then order a butcher to skin the bandit alive. The butcher resists, but is given a choice of death or skinning, as a reminder to the laborers not to resist. The butcher is near to doing it, but in hopeless desperation he choose to kill Shanpao to avoid skinning him. He is machine gunned, and the butcher assistant is given the task, to skin Luohan, the distillery worker, lest he himself be skinned. He does the skinning, and loses his mind. The narrator then identifies many atrocities of the Japanese during the war and notes Luohan as a member of the Communist guerrilla resistance.
They then have a liquor tasting ritual where they celebrate Luohan and his liquor, where Jiu'er recommends the distillery workers avenge his death. All of the distillery workers toast with the liquor, as does Jiu'er's son, the narrator's father, with the same song that Luohan sung at other rituals. In the early dawn, they set an ambush and take liquor with them to use as a fire bomb, which is urinated in by Jiu'er's son. Later, the boy runs back to the distillery and tells his mother the men are hungry. She arrives in time to be machine-gunned by the Japanese. The ambush is a noble disaster, with cannons misfiring and killing some of the ambushers but their homemade liquor grenades destroy the Japanese trucks and troops, as well as most of the distillers. In the end, there is nothing but scenes of death, with the narrator's grandfather and father observing a red eclipse symbolic of the death and destruction and the red color of the liquor. The narrator's father is left chanting a prayer for his mother to rise to heaven at the close of the film.
STOCKHOLM (AP) — Chinese writer Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize in literature on Thursday, a cause of pride for a government that had disowned the only previous Chinese winner of the award, an exiled critic.
National television broke into its newscast to announce the prize — exceptional for the tightly scripted broadcast that usually focuses on the doings of Chinese leaders.
The Swedish Academy, which selects the winners of the prestigious award, praised Mo's "hallucinatory realism" saying it "merges folk tales, history and the contemporary."
Peter Englund, the academy's permanent secretary, said the academy had contacted Mo, 57,before the announcement.
"He said he was overjoyed and scared," Englund said.
Among the works highlighted by the Nobel judges were "Red Sorghum, (1993), "The Garlic Ballads" (1995), "Big Breasts & Wide Hips (2004).
"He's written 11 novels and let's say a hundred short stories," Englund said. "If you want to start off to get a sense of how he is writing and also get a sense of the moral core in what he is writing I would recommend 'The Garlic Ballads.'"...more
A Constructive Postmodern Appreciation
JJB is an international community of artists, teachers, scholars, and students who are interested in the mutual transformation of Asian and Western cultures.
Inspired by the constructive postmodernism of "process thinking," we believe that literature and the arts have an essential role to play in this transformation.
As we see things, stories and the words by which they are communicated as lures for feeling. We borrow the phrase from the late philosopher and mathematician, Alfred North Whitehead, whose thought functions as a bridge between East and West, Alfred North Whitehead.
Lures for feeling an be communicated through words, images, gestures, folk tales, parables, music, and dance. They invite us to imagine the world and indeed feel the world from different points of view. When we do this we are engaged in empathy.
Empathy occurs in two ways: through an actual sharing of subjective states, as when we feel the moods of other and share in them, and through an imagining of the world from their point of view. From a constructive postmodern perspective, empathy is a capacity, a skill, that is essential to 21st century living. It is part of what two Chinese authors -- Zhihe Wang and Fan Meijun -- call a Second Enlightenment that can emerge through a cross-fertilization of Eastern and Western thinking.
Mo Yan received his Nobel Prize for the excellence of his work and for his service to a wider world of empathy.
Along with Mo Yan, we "process thinkers" or "constructive postmodernists" believe that the imagination itself is a means by which explore possibilities for feeling and interacting with the world which may or may not have been actualized in history, but which have a reality of their own.
Whitehead speaks of these possibilities as propositions: that is, proposals for how the world can be arranged and life can be lived. Fables and folk tales are media by which such propositions are evoked. We learn about what is possible through them.
When imagination and a sense of realism are combined, we have, in the words of the Swedish Academy, hallucinatory realism. In some contexts, hallucinatory realism may be more realistic than non-hallucinatory realism, insofar as it takes us deeply into the subjective and emotional sides of historical occurrences.
In the 21st century, mere "realists" look at the world from its surface appearances. People are objects in space, moving from one location to another. With help from hallucinatory realism, with its combination of folk tales and fable and the contemporary, a deeper kind of realism is provided: the reality of first-person feeling, of life as lived from the inside. It is in life lived from the inside, moment by moment, person by person, that true concreteness is found. Whitehead calls it subjective immediacy.
Mo Yan tells stories, film makers like Zhang Yimou take the stories and create films.
Images, too, are lures for feeling. Images, too, tell stories. The telling of the stories, the making of the films: all are part of a creativity which dwells within each human being.
Each person is a story, the world is a movie in the making, without retakes.
In the beginning is the becoming. The purpose of art is to take help us understand the becoming, from the inside: to find our way within the Way.
Mo Yan and Constructive Postmodernism