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A Subversive Voice in China: The Fictional World of Mo Yan By Shelley W. Chan ...

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A Subversive Voice in China:


“García Márquez wrote my novel!” So went Mo Yan’s response to the widely held view that his early novels were Chinese versions of the Latin American “magic realism” style. As his English-language translator and someone who was a fan of Latin American fiction of the time, that struck me at the time as strange and quite audacious, but it took little for him to convince me that there was nothing derivative about his novel. While there are similarities between García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude and Mo Yan’s breakthrough novel Red Sorghum, mainly in their historical vision, their defamiliarizing narrative style, and their ability to get readers to accept the traditionally unacceptable, each created a fictional world that was national in its conception, international in its reach, and absolutely unique to its creator.

In the two decades since Red Sorghum burst onto China’s literary scene, Mo Yan has proved to be one of the most prolific novelists of the post-Mao era and, in the view of many, its most accomplished and influential. His vast corpus—as many as a dozen big novels and more stories than I care to count—incorporates events and tales of virtually the entire