Mo Yan's 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature quickly turned into the most controversial international literary prize of recent memory. The controversy took place largely in English, and largely on the American Internet, where as much as Mo Yan was honored as being an important literary voice from a country whose contemporary cultural products are often neglected, he was criticized for supporting the Chinese Communist Party and its government. Defenders have pointed out that the politics in his fiction are neither as simple nor as straightforward as his party membership might otherwise indicate, but critics have said he writes a “daft hilarity” in a “diseased language,” calling his works in translation “superior to the original in their aesthetic unity and sureness.” Taking a detailed look at the controversy and debate, I examine the theoretical assumptions and stakes at work in the reading of Mo Yan and his Nobel, with attention to their ideological underpinnings, followed with a discussion on the importance of considering translation and the relationship between literary reading and politics. I close with a look toward a broadly applicable model of internationalist reading I call translational.

You do not currently have access to this content.