Nobel laureate Mo Yan speaks on “History and Reality in Literature” at distinguished lecture
21 Nov 2017
Winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature and recipient of HKBU Honorary Doctorate of Letters 2017, Professor Mo Yan delivered a public lecture on “History and Reality in Literature” on 15 November, attracting around 800 attendees.
Professor Mo Yan said that when literary writers write about history, they should make every effort to imagine people’s actual life in the past, and at the same time bring in imaginary elements to the story. He said that he had to suppress his strong subjective thinking and maintain an objective mind so that every historical figure portrayed in his novels would be treated fairly, which he admitted is not an easy task.
Speaking on reality in literature, Mo Yan believes that reality may sometimes hinder writers from exploring a certain issue thoroughly. Reality can be even more difficult to handle than history because conclusions can be found on a certain piece of history whereas reality keeps changing. He said: "Reality needs time to settle, to go through a process of sedimentation. For things that happen today, it is better to write about it tomorrow or even later, so as to let the full picture come out." Most of his recently released novels were actually finished five years ago, but with time, many of these novels "grew" and gave him new inspiration.
Following Professor Mo Yan’s lecture was a discussion session facilitated by Professor Zhang Hongsheng, Head of the Department of Chinese Language and Literature, with Professor Chen Xiaoming, Changjiang Distinguished Professor of the Ministry of Education of China, as the discussant.