Credit: Chen Yimin/AP

For weeks, Haruki Murakami has been the odds-on favorite to win the Nobel Prize in Literature this year, but a writer less known to American readers took the big honor. Chinese Author Mo Yan, author of Red Sorghum, The Garlic Ballads, and Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out, was “overjoyed and scared” when he learned of his win. The Swedish Academy’s official announcement read, “Through a mixture of fantasy and reality, historical and social perspectives, Mo Yan has created a world reminiscent in its complexity of those in the writings of William Faulkner and Gabriel García Márquez, at the same time finding a departure point in old Chinese literature and in oral tradition.”

Mo, 57, has been widely banned in China for his social criticism. He told Granta in a recent interview that censorship, in a way, has enriched his novels. “Many approaches to literature have political bearings, for example in our real life there might be some sharp or sensitive issues that they do not wish to touch upon,” he said. “At such a juncture a writer can inject their own imagination to isolate them from the real world or maybe they can exaggerate the situation – making sure it is bold, vivid and has the signature of our real world. So, actually I believe these limitations or censorship is great for literature creation.”

The Prize is worth around $1.2 million. Mo’s win marks a break from what critics have pointed out as a recent streak of European laureates. The last American author to win was Toni Morrison in 1993.

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