Mo Yan, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature, has been subject to much criticism over his perceived cosiness with the Chinese government. In his first interview since becoming a Nobel laureate, Mo spoke to Der Spiegel about politics, writing, and Ai Weiwei.
On the author’s Party membership and less than forthright political views:
Mo: The Communist Party of China has well over 80 million members, and I am one of them. I joined the party in 1979 when I was in the army. I realized that the Cultural Revolution was the mistake of individual leaders. It had less to do with the party itself.
SPIEGEL: In your books, you harshly criticize party officials, but your political statements, like the one you just made, are mild. How do explain this contradiction?
Mo: There is no contradiction with my political opinion when I harshly criticize party officials in my books. I have emphasized repeatedly that I am writing on behalf of the people, not the party. I detest corrupt officials.
Mo: I have read his statement and I have read the speech he gave at the award ceremony. In the speech, he called for the split of the Chinese state. I can absolutely not agree to this position. I think that the people of Sichuan (the province where Liao is from) would not agree to cut their province out of China. I am sure Liao’s parents could never agree to this position. And I can not even imagine that he himself can, in the depth of his heart, agree to what he said there. I know he envies me for this award and I understand this. But his criticism is unjustified.
Mo: I openly expressed the hope that Liu Xiaobo should regain his freedom as soon as possible. But again, I was immediately criticized and forced to speak out again and again on the same issue.
On Ai Weiwei, who has called Mo a tool of the state:
Mo: Aren’t many artists in mainland China state artists? What about those who are professors at the universities? What about those who write for state newspapers? And then, which intellectual can claim to represent China? I certainly do not claim that. Can Ai Weiwei? Those who can really represent China are digging dirt and paving roads with their bare hands.