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Chicken soup for Chinese writers' soul

By Bai Ping (China Daily)

08:57, October 23, 2012

Mo Yan (File photo)

The life of a Chinese writer can be lonely, difficult and frustrating. For the few who have made it, their success is often dissected for clues to encourage the rest to continue their struggle to live their dreams.

In the tumultuous Chinese literary universe fraught with ideological conflicts and a wealth of long but trashy reads, Mo Yan, the winner of this year's Nobel Prize in literature, has shown masterful skill in turning every challenge into opportunity while portraying Chinese rural life with sensuous language and biting satire. Although there may be many things about Mo that a writer can draw inspiration from, I believe the following three are the most valuable.

First, Mo's success pivots on his abilities to persevere and bear loneliness in pursuing his love for literature. A leading traditional writer dedicated to a more serious approach to writing, he's aware of the overwhelming presence of entertainment-oriented literature, which is supported by 20 million online contributors with 227 million followers. Over the years it has expanded into a dazzling array of light genres, including mystery, ghost stories, fairy tales, time travel and romance.

As fewer people read serious literature, a rather desolate and lonely writing realm, Mo says it will eventually only be enjoyed by a small group of readers and cease to be part of mass culture. However, he has been a hardworking, prolific and serious writer who sticks to the literary tradition both on substance and style. He is one of several noted Chinese writers who still prefer writing by hand rather than on the computer, because he feels painful searching for words with hanyu pinyin input on the computer. For him, inspiration comes with the use of pen and paper.

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