Why We Should Criticize (Mo Yan) — Perry Link
copy of my post on the New York Review of Books blog:
If nothing else, the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Mo Yan has drawn considerable attention to contemporary Chinese literature by those otherwise likely disinclined to take note. The ruts of the debate that arise from such attention, though, run deep, reducing much of the conversation to zero sum game pitting the Chinese Communist Party and all who support it against “us” moral high-grounders both in and outside of China. These two fields are absurd, and I certainly second the dismay expressed already that the New York Review of Books should give platform to it. Somewhere between Mo Yan supporters on one side and Perry Link-led “detractors” on the other lies the middle ground of contemporary Chinese writing, acutely aware of global trends (that include prizes such as this one), but also deeply attuned to its own language and culture (including the dreaded “Mao-speak” that Professor Link imagines exerting such an influence). Such a middle ground is where good literature resides, and where, in fact, Mo Yan writes, or at least once wrote. His ability to ever write anything worth reading again is perhaps the one major casualty of this debate.