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Nobel laureate Mo Yan's hometown glory (2)

(Global Times)

10:28, October 24, 2012

Mo Yan's aunt, Guan Yilan Photo: Xu Ming/ GT

Mo's old home, where he lived for over 20 years since childhood, remains in the northwest of the village. It rose to fame with Mo, and has been frequented by hundreds of visitors in the past days.

The "northeast village" where many of Mo's novels are set refers to the northeast part of Gaomi, including Heya and Dalan township. Mo's childhood teacher Zhang Zuosheng said that this area is where Jiaozhou county, Pingdu county and Gaomi county converge and thus used to be loosely managed.

"It was a low area, easily flooded, and people could only plant tall crops," said Zhang.

The sorghum plants that were all over the land play out in Mo's novels, such as Red Sorghum. There are also traces of the flood in his work, including descriptions of the marshland and famine.

According to Zhang, who lives several kilometers away from Ping'an village, the area used to be rampant with bandits, due to poverty and a lack of administration.

"There are many intriguing and mysterious legends about the bandits. Many figures in Mo's novels were based on such anecdotes," said Zhang.

Zhang attributes Mo's success to his deep roots to the land, the people, the stories and his personal experiences.

Familial influences

Mo's 11th novel, Frog, a story about a female county doctor's experience of practicing family planning policies, won the 8th Mao Dun Literature Prize in 2011. Compared to his previous novels, Frog is more realistic and historical. The novel stirs dialogue about China's complicated childbearing history in rural areas during the past 60 years.

The prototype of the older auntie in the novel is based on Mo's own aunt, Guan Yilan, the youngest daughter of his grandfather's elder brother. The 75-year-old doctor retired in 1996, after spending 40 years in the township hospital. At her home, she told Global Times about her experiences.

"It is true that I used to ride a bicycle on the icy surface of the Jiaohe River, as the river, shielded by the dams, was a bit warmer during the windy winter."

"Mo once asked for my opinion about the novel," she said. "But I have no advice to offer. I had faith in his talent and believed he could write the novel properly."

She remembers the days when Mo was a child, passionate about reading. "It was difficult to get books at that time, and he read whatever books were at hand, from martial arts novels to medicinal books."

Mo's elder brother Guan Moxin said that Mo used to borrow books from every household in the village. "He would do farm work for villagers to borrow books in return."

As a boy, Mo loved listening to stories and tales told by his grandfather, family and other villagers, adding to his creative background.

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