MO Yan (莫言)

MO Yan
  • Asia
  • Eastern Asia
  • China

MO Yan / 莫言 (fiction writer, journalist; China)  is one of China's foremost novelists, best known for his 1987 novel Hong Gaoliang Jiazu ( Red Sorghum ). The internationally acclaimed film adaptation, directed by Zhang Yimou, won the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival, becoming one of China's most popular films and bringing Chinese cinema into the international mainstream. After a childhood of extreme poverty during the Cultural Revolution, Mo worked in a factory until he joined the army in 1976. He began writing in 1981 and graduated from the Army Academy of Art and Literature in 1986, subsequently receiving a M.A. in literature from Beijing Normal University. In the late 1990s, he left the army to become a professional writer. He has written dozens of short stories and ten or more novels, translated widely. In addition to Red Sorghum , released by Viking in 1993, titles available in English include: Explosions and Other Stories (1991), The Garlic Ballads (1995), and The Republic of Wine: A Novel (2000). Mo Yan is participating courtesy of the University of Iowa; he will be attending the IWP 9/3–9/18.

Happening Now

  • Just completed: “Sense of Belonging,” a bilingual Iowa City + Paris-based podcast series commissioned by Walid Rachedi and produced by NFW grad students in both cities, with support of the US Embassy in Paris.

  • Word has just reached us of the sudden death, in his hometown Gdańsk, of the novelist, poet, essayist, and playwright Paweł Huelle. RIP.

  • “I regret that poems can’t serve as witnesses in military tribunals; they can only testify in the court of history,” writes Iya Kiva in an essay for the project “War Is… Ukrainian Writers on Living Through Catastrophe.”

  • Congratulations to novelists Mansoura Ez-Eldin and Taleb Al-Refai for placing on the 2023 finalist list of the prestigious Prix de la littérature arabe.


  • Samuel Kolawole’s first novel, The Road to the Salt Sea, is announced for a July 2024 release.

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