Last month, CCNY held a special event in Shepard’s Great Hall to celebrate Mo Yan, the 2012 recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Mo, 59, the 2014 Rudin lecturer and honorary degree recipient of City College, calmly listened to the greetings of the presenters and the cheers of the attendees, among them a cohort of CCNY Chinese students.
His works criticize the political and social matters in China. Mo remains popular in his own country and praised by Chinese literature readers across the world as well.
The enthusiastic President of City College, Lisa S. Coico, awarded the degree to Mo, “for your penning outstanding contribution to literature.”
“The City College of New York is honored and proud to present to you the Doctor of Humane Letters,” said President Coico. “Honoris Causas–congratulations!”
Mo acknowledges being influenced by the works of William Faulkner and Gabriel Garcia Marquez before following his own path. His breakthrough 1986 epic novel, Red Sorghum, tackles issues like the Sino-Japanese war through a family saga. One of his other well known tales, The Garlic Ballads, published in 1988, takes on a political affair of the Chinese nation without pointing at specific officials.
Born Guan Moye in 1955, he chose the pen name Mo Yan which means “don’t speak.” Yet his prolific writing points at the ugliness of human beings. Mo’s previous awards include the Kiriyama Prize (2005), the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize (2006), the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature (2009) and the Mao Dun Literature Prize (2011).
Erik Weitz, dean of Humanities and Arts, remarked on Mo’s ability to portray China as a wonderful world. “Thank you for the beautiful descriptions of China and its landscapes,” he said. “A country I’ve never been to before, but I wish to visit sometimes in the future. Your writing helps my desire to go to China.”
Mo spoke in Mandarin Chinese through interpreter.“My stories, I heard them from other people,” he said. “I also write them from my own experience, my imagination. In our natural live, we cannot live without science, but in our spiritual life we cannot live without literature.”