One of the leading contemporary Chinese authors, Guan Moye (1955-)was born in Gao Mi village located in the northeastern portion of the Shandong province. Once he began writing fiction he took on the pen name Mo Yan (meaning "not willing to talk") to protect himself and to allow his books to be published because of his continued work in the political bureau of the People's Liberation Army as a staff officer.
Growing up in a rural impoverished area of China, Mo Yan discovered that one way out of the poverty surrounding him would be to join the army. However, it was not until 1976 that he was finally accepted. He was refused acceptance for a few years because of allogations that he was the grandson of a "politically suspect middle class family." Once in the army, he was first educated as a librarian and later on was able to attend the Army Arts and Literature College.
He began his writing career in 1981 with the publication of his first novel Falling Rain on a Spring Night. In his novels he draws heavily on his experiences growing up in poverty in rural China, and he tell the stories of the ordinary Chinese people and their experiences under Communism and during World War II.
The following is an excerpt from an interview with Anne Naham in which Mo Yan discusses some of the difficulties he has experienced with both the government and the military while trying to get his works published:
As a writer, I thought I could describe life through the eyes of ordinary people. At the time of the Civil War people were only interested in survival. So many families had sons and daughters who either fought for the Communists or for the Kuomintang. Often it was a matter of which army recruited first. The choice was not between good or bad, it was between having food or going without it. My critics know who won the war, and according to them, I do not have the right perspective on history.
Novels and Short Stories
Translated into English
The Garlic Ballads
The Republic of Wine
Shifu, You'll Do Anything for a Laugh
Explosions and Other Stories
A screen adaptation of Red Sorghum was released in 1988. It was directed by Zhang Yimou and starred Gong Li and Jian Wen.
Anne Naham, Mightier Than the Sword: A leading Chinese writer pushes the limits (Asiaweek:August, 1999).