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2009 Newman Prize Winner

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Inaugaural 2009 Winner Mo Yan


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE       CONTACT: OU Inst. US-China Issues, 405/325-3580

NORMAN, OK – The Chinese writer Mo Yan has been chosen by an international jury as the winner of the inaugural Newman Prize for Chinese Literature. The Newman Prize is sponsored by the University of Oklahoma’s Institute for US-China Issues. It is awarded biennially in recognition of outstanding achievement in prose or poetry that best captures the human condition, and is conferred solely on the basis of literary merit. Any living author writing in Chinese is eligible. A jury of seven distinguished literary experts both nominated the candidates and selected the winner in a transparent voting process on 30 September 2008.

Mr. Mo Yan will receive USD 10,000 and a commemorative plaque, and will be invited to the University of Oklahoma to attend an award ceremony and academic symposium in March 2009.  The event will be hosted by Peter Hays Gries, director of the Institute for US-China Issues, which seeks to advance mutual trust in US-China relations.

“I am absolutely thrilled at the selection of Mo Yan as the inaugural winner of the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature,” Gries said. “As the first major American award for Chinese literature, I very much hope that the Newman Prize will both contribute to increased American awareness of the tremendous diversity and humanist spirit of contemporary Chinese literature, and help generate goodwill in US-China relations.”

The Newman Prize honors Harold J. and Ruth Newman, whose generous endowment of a chair at the University of Oklahoma enabled the creation of the OU Institute for US-China Issues.  The University of Oklahoma is also home to World Literature Today, a leading journal of world literature, and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. A special section of World Literature Today will be dedicated to Mo Yan’s work in Fall 2009.

The seven writers and representative works under consideration were: Mo Yan’s Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out (2006), Yan Lianke’s Dreams of Ding Village (2006), Ning Ken’s The City of Masks (2001), Wang Anyi’s The Song of Everlasting Sorrow (2000), Zhu Tianxin’s Old Capital (1997), Wang Meng’s The Transformer (1985), and Jin Yong’s The Deer and the Cauldron (1969-1972).

The nominees included well-established maestros as well as rising stars based in mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. The genres and themes were wide-ranging: from magical realist renditions of the Chinese countryside caught up in the turmoil of market reforms, Internet-installment fiction about drifters and seekers, an epic portrayal of modern Shanghai as condensed in the life of a former Miss Shanghai turned petty urbanite, a postcolonial exploration of city and memory, and a satire about the predicament of the semi-colonial intellectual, to a historical panorama that both crowns and radically revises the martial-arts novel tradition.

The inaugural Newman Prize jury consisted of seven internationally recognized jurors based in the U.S., Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, and was jointly coordinated by Peter Hays Gries (University of Oklahoma) and Haiyan Lee (University of Hong Kong).  The jurors were: Kirk Denton (Ohio State University), Howard Goldblatt (University of Notre Dame), Liu Hongtao (Beijing Normal University), Peng Hsiao-yen (Academia Sinica, Taiwan), Xu Zidong (Lingnan University, Hong Kong), Zhang Yiwu (Beijing University), and Zhao Yiheng (Sichuan University).
The diversity and strength of the nominations posed a great challenge for the jury. Yet Mo Yan emerged as the consensus winner after four rounds of positive elimination voting. Mo Yan has had a remarkable career producing a brilliant corpus of literary work. He was nominated by the prominent translator Howard Goldblatt, who also translated Mo Yan’s latest and winning novel, Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out.

“Of all the facets of Mo Yan’s oeuvre that have made him one of China’s foremost novelists and an internationally renowned figure—from diverse writing styles to his remarkable imagery and brilliant use of language—for me it is his historical imagination, an ability to create an alternative human history, that sets him apart from his peers. Artistry and humanity blend seamlessly in novels and stories that will be read and enjoyed well into the future,” said Howard Goldblatt.

For more information, please visit the Newman Prize homepage. You can also contact:
- Peter Gries, The University of Oklahoma, 405/325-1962 (US Central Time),
- Howard Goldblatt, Univ. of Notre Dame, 574/289-7442 (US Central),
- Haiyan Lee, The University of Hong Kong, 852/6489-3858 (Beijing Time),

Howard Goldblatt's statement nominating Mo Yan.