So this morning Chinese writer Mo Yan was announced as the 2012 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Not having heard of him, I thought I’d go on Amazon and see if any of his work was available for the Kindle (I doubt there’s any of his work available in the bookshops here in Barbados).

I discovered that his best-known work, Red Sorghum, is available, with a publication date of 12 October 2012. Coincidence? Possibly. Or did the folks at Cornerstone get the news of the award, think, ‘Shit, we don’t have any of his stuff on Kindle!’, and spend all day frantically scanning pages? I don’t know, just thought it was an amusing image.

Have you read anything by Mo Yan? Had you heard of him before today? What do you think of the award?


  1. litlove 12 October 2012 at 4:48 am

    Lol! This post made me laugh a lot at the thought of those scurrying publishers. I always thought it was lawyers sorting out the complicated business of rights that took up all the time with ebook publishing, but surely that’s smoother by now? Anyway, it’s hard to know what to think of an award when you’ve never ever heard of the author. But you’ve got to hand it to the Nobel committee: no one could accuse them of playing to the popular market! πŸ™‚

    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 15 October 2012 at 5:26 pm

      I’m glad I made you laugh! To be honest I have no idea what’s involved in putting out an ebook, but in any process it’s a fairly safe bet that lawyers are the ones drawing it out.

      Yes, I do like the Nobel picks – they quite often come up with an unexpected result. It reminds me, too, how much we still read on a national basis. Yes, there are lots of translations available, and I’ve read a good smattering of books from all over the world, but still have a bias towards British writers, so things like this tend to catch me off-guard.

  2. Charlie 12 October 2012 at 5:30 am

    Wow, would they not have thought of that beforehand it was announced. Good they’ve done it though, could have been embarrassing. I’d never heard of him, and actually didn’t know until the news yesterday evening, so all the tweets about him went over my head.

    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 15 October 2012 at 5:28 pm

      I was the same, Charlie – saw people talking about Mo Yan for ages before I put it all together!

  3. Stefanie 12 October 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Hard to believe it is a coincidence. I was rooting for Murakami to win, maybe next year. I had thought I had never heard of Mo Yan before but it turns out that I have one of his books on my bookshelves bought several years ago and completely forgotten about: Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out. I’m glad I rediscovered it because it sounds marvelously weird which is probably why I got it in the first place.

    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 15 October 2012 at 5:31 pm

      Hi Stefanie
      I wasn’t really following it too much, but I think Murakami was the front-runner, wasn’t he? He’s certainly a lot more well-known in the West than Mo Yan, and he’s an excellent writer, but of course without having read Mo Yan I can’t really judge their relative merits. That book does sound marvellously weird! In fact a lot of his books sound marvellously weird. Am looking forward to discovering some of them myself.

  4. Brian Joseph 12 October 2012 at 8:24 pm

    I too saw a story about the award and thought that I should give Mo Yan a try. I never got as far as looking for ebooks however.

    The publication date sounds too much of a coincidence, on the other hand how could they get this out so quickly? I imagine that there are many contactual, legal, technical and logistical issues involved with something like this.

    Maybe when they realized that he was a candidate for the prize they got the ball rolling.

    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 15 October 2012 at 5:35 pm

      Yes, that could be it – I don’t really know what’s involved. I doubt there’d be too many contractual issues because they already held the rights to the paperback edition so probably owned the ebook rights too. But yes, the logistics would be a lot.

      I think the Nobel process is pretty secretive so I’m not sure if they’d have known he was a candidate. Maybe things leak out unofficially, though. When I’m in the running for it myself, I’ll let you know. Maybe next year – can’t imagine how they overlooked me for so long πŸ™‚

  5. Vishy 26 October 2012 at 4:52 am

    Interesting to know that, Andrew! It is nice that they got Mo Yan’s ebook on time πŸ™‚ I have his ‘Red Sorghum’ but haven’t read it yet. There are many interesting Chinese writers but unfortunately it is difficult to get their works in translation or they are published by university presses and so are insanely expensive. Even getting English translations of the four Chinese classics is extremely difficult outside China. The Foreign Languages Press in Beijing publishes English translations of many of the Chinese classics and contemporary works, and they are priced reasonably, but I don’t know whether they ship them outside China. It is nice that Mo Yan has won the Nobel prize this year, because now maybe more of his works will be easily available and maybe this might lead to translations of other important chinese writers.

    1. Andrew Blackman - Site Author 29 October 2012 at 7:45 pm

      Hi Vishy
      You’re right, it is hard to get translations of many Chinese writers. I didn’t know of the Foreign Languages Press, so am not sure whether they ship abroad. I think it’s true that the Nobel will lead to more attention not only for Mo Yan but for other Chinese writers, and hence more translations hopefully. I haven’t read many at all, so would like to try more.


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