Mo Yan: a storyteller’s moving reminiscence of life

I read and listened to MO Yan’s speech via Zhaihua’s blog today and Mo Yan’s recall of his childhood totally melts my heart.

The 2012 Nobel Literature Prize laureate Mo Yan of China gave this key speech during the traditional Nobel lecture at the Royal Swedish Academy on December 7, 2012.

Mo Yan of China: Storyteller's tribute to mother

Mo Yan of China: Storyteller’s tribute to mother

This is one of the most moving speeches I’ve ever heard in my life. The speech is a tribute to his mother. Please spare a few minutes to read this. It’s worth your 10 minutes.

【English text was translated by Howard Goldblatt】

Distinguished members of the Swedish Academy, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Through the mediums of television and the Internet, I imagine that everyone here has at least a nodding acquaintance with far-off Northeast Gaomi Township. You may have seen my ninety-year-old father, as well as my brothers, my sister, my wife and my daughter, even my granddaughter, now a year and four months old. But the person who is most on my mind at this moment, my mother, is someone you will never see. Many people have shared in the honor of winning this prize, everyone but her.

尊敬的瑞典学院各位院士,女士们、先生们:

通过电视或者网络,我想在座的各位,对遥远的高密东北乡,已经有了或多或少的了解。你们也许看到了我的九十岁的老父亲,看到了我的哥哥姐姐我的妻子女儿和我的一岁零四个月的外孙女。但有一个我此刻最想念的人,我的母亲,你们永远无法看到了。我获奖后,很多人分享了我的光荣,但我的母亲却无法分享了。

My mother was born in 1922 and died in 1994. We buried her in a peach orchard east of the village. Last year we were forced to move her grave farther away from the village in order to make room for a proposed rail line. When we dug up the grave, we saw that the coffin had rotted away and that her body had merged with the damp earth around it. So we dug up some of that soil, a symbolic act, and took it to the new gravesite. That was when I grasped the knowledge that my mother had become part of the earth, and that when I spoke to mother earth, I was really speaking to my mother.

我母亲生于1922 年,卒于1994 年。她的骨灰,埋葬在村庄东边的桃园里。去年,一条铁路要从那儿穿过,我们不得不将她的坟墓迁移到距离村子更远的地方。掘开坟墓后,我们看到,棺木已经腐朽,母亲的骨殖,已经与泥土混为一体。我们只好象征性地挖起一些泥土,移到新的墓穴里。也就是从那一时刻起,我感到,我的母亲是大地的一部分,我站在大地上的诉说,就是对母亲的诉说。

I was my mother’s youngest child.

My earliest memory was of taking our only vacuum bottle to the public canteen for drinking water. Weakened by hunger, I dropped the bottle and broke it. Scared witless, I hid all that day in a haystack. Toward evening, I heard my mother calling my childhood name, so I crawled out of my hiding place, prepared to receive a beating or a scolding. But Mother didn’t hit me, didn’t even scold me. She just rubbed my head and heaved a sigh.

我是我母亲最小的孩子。

我记忆中最早的一件事,是提着家里唯一的一把热水瓶去公共食堂打开水。因为饥饿无力,失手将热水瓶打碎,我吓得要命,钻进草垛,一天没敢出来。傍晚的时候,我听到母亲呼唤我的乳名。我从草垛里钻出来,以为会受到打骂,但母亲没有打我也没有骂我,只是抚摸着我的头,口中发出长长的叹息。

My most painful memory involved going out in the collective’s field with Mother to glean ears of wheat. The gleaners scattered when they spotted the watchman. But Mother, who had bound feet, could not run; she was caught and slapped so hard by the watchman, a hulk of a man, that she fell to the ground. The watchman confiscated the wheat we’d gleaned and walked off whistling. As she sat on the ground, her lip bleeding, Mother wore a look of hopelessness I’ll never forget. Years later, when I encountered the watchman, now a gray-haired old man, in the marketplace, Mother had to stop me from going up to avenge her.“Son,” she said evenly, “the man who hit me and this man are not the same person.”

我记忆中最痛苦的一件事,就是跟随着母亲去集体的地里捡麦穗,看守麦田的人来了,捡麦穗的人纷纷逃跑,我母亲是小脚,跑不快,被捉住,那个身材高大的看守人搧了她一个耳光。她摇晃着身体跌倒在地。看守人没收了我们捡到的麦穗,吹着口哨扬长而去。我母亲嘴角流血,坐在地上,脸上那种绝望的神情让我终生难忘。多年之后,当那个看守麦田的人成为一个白发苍苍的老人,在集市上与我相逢,我冲上去想找他报仇,母亲拉住了我,平静地对我说:“儿子,那个打我的人,与这个老人,并不是一个人。”

My clearest memory is of a Moon Festival day, at noontime, one of those rare occasions when we ate jiaozi at home, one bowl apiece. An aging beggar came to our door while we were at the table, and when I tried to send him away with half a bowlful of dried sweet potatoes, he reacted angrily: “I’m an old man,” he said. “You people are eating jiaozi, but want to feed me sweet potatoes. How heartless can you be?” I reacted just as angrily: “We’re lucky if we eat jiaozi a couple of times a year, one small bowlful apiece, barely enough to get a taste! You should be thankful we’re giving you sweet potatoes, and if you don’t want them, you can get the hell out of here!” After (dressing me down) reprimanding me, Mother dumped her half bowlful of jiaozi into the old man’s bowl.

我记得最深刻的一件事是一个中秋节的中午,我们家难得地包了一顿饺子,每人只有一碗。正当我们吃饺子时,一个乞讨的老人,来到了我们家门口。我端起半碗红薯干打发他,他却愤愤不平地说:“我是一个老人,你们吃饺子,却让我吃红薯干,你们的心是怎么长的?”我气急败坏地说:“我们一年也吃不了几次饺子,一人一小碗,连半饱都吃不了!给你红薯干就不错了,你要就要,不要就滚!”母亲训斥了我,然后端起她那半碗饺子,倒进老人碗里。

My most remorseful memory involves helping Mother sell cabbages at market, and me overcharging an old villager one jiao – intentionally or not, I can’t recall – before heading off to school. When I came home that afternoon, I saw that Mother was crying, something she rarely did. Instead of scolding me, she merely said softly, “Son, you embarrassed your mother today.”

我最后悔的一件事,就是跟着母亲去卖白菜,有意无意地多算了一位买白菜的老人一毛钱。算完钱我就去了学校。当我放学回家时,看到很少流泪的母亲泪流满面。母亲并没有骂我,只是轻轻地说:“儿子,你让娘丢了脸。”

Mother contracted a serious lung disease when I was still in my teens. Hunger, disease, and too much work made things extremely hard on our family. The road ahead looked especially bleak, and I had a bad feeling about the future, worried that Mother might take her own life. Every day, the first thing I did when I walked in the door after a day of hard labor was call out for Mother. Hearing her voice was like giving my heart a new lease on life. But not hearing her threw me into a panic. I’d go looking for her in the side building and in the mill. One day, after searching everywhere and not finding her, I sat down in the yard and cried like a baby. That is how she found me when she walked into the yard carrying a bundle of firewood on her back. She was very unhappy with me, but I could not tell her what I was afraid of. She knew anyway. “Son,” she said, “don’t worry, there may be no joy in my life, but I won’t leave you till the God of the Underworld calls me.”

我十几岁时,母亲患了严重的肺病,饥饿,病痛,劳累,使我们这个家庭陷入困境,看不到光明和希望。我产生了一种强烈的不祥之感,以为母亲随时都会自寻短见。每当我劳动归来,一进大门,就高喊母亲,听到她的回应,心中才感到一块石头落了地,如果一时听不到她的回应,我就心惊胆颤,跑到厢房和磨坊里寻找。有一次,找遍了所有的房间也没有见到母亲的身影。我便坐在院子里大哭。这时,母亲背着一捆柴草从外边走进来。她对我的哭很不满,但我又不能对她说出我的担忧。母亲看透我的心思,她说:“孩子,你放心,尽管我活着没有一点乐趣,但只要阎王爷不叫我,我是不会去的。”

I was born ugly. Villagers often laughed in my face, and school bullies sometimes beat me up because of it. I’d run home crying, where my mother would say, “You’re not ugly, Son. You’ve got a nose and two eyes, and there’s nothing wrong with your arms and legs, so how could you be ugly? If you have a good heart and always do the right thing, what is considered ugly becomes beautiful.” Later on, when I moved to the city, there were educated people who laughed at me behind my back, some even to my face; but when I recalled what Mother had said, I just calmly offered my apologies.

My illiterate mother held people who could read in high regard. We were so poor we often did not know where our next meal was coming from, yet she never denied my request to buy a book or something to write with. By nature hard working, she had no use for lazy children, yet I could skip my chores as long as I had my nose in a book.

我生来相貌丑陋,村子里很多人当面嘲笑我,学校里有几个性格霸蛮的同学甚至为此打我。我回家痛哭,母亲对我说:“儿子,你不丑。你不缺鼻子不缺眼,四肢健全,丑在哪里?而且,只要你心存善良,多做好事,即便是丑,也能变美。”后来我进入城市,有一些很有文化的人依然在背后甚至当面嘲弄我的相貌,我想起了母亲的话,便心平气和地向他们道歉。

A storyteller once came to the marketplace, and I sneaked off to listen to him. She was unhappy with me for forgetting my chores. But that night, while she was stitching padded clothes for us under the weak light of a kerosene lamp, I couldn’t keep from retelling stories I’d heard that day. She listened impatiently at first, since in her eyes professional storytellers were smooth-talking men in a dubious profession. Nothing good ever came out of their mouths. But slowly she was dragged into my retold stories, and from that day on, she never gave me chores on market day, unspoken permission to go to the marketplace and listen to new stories. As repayment for Mother’s kindness and a way to demonstrate my memory, I’d retell the stories for her in vivid detail.

我母亲不识字,但对识字的人十分敬重。我们家生活困难,经常吃了上顿没下顿,但只要我对她提出买书买文具的要求,她总是会满足我。她是个勤劳的人,讨厌懒惰的孩子,但只要是我因为看书耽误了干活,她从来没批评过我。有一段时间,集市上来了一个说书人。我偷偷地跑去听书,忘记了她分配给我的活儿。为此,母亲批评了我。晚上,当她就着一盏小油灯为家人赶制棉衣时,我忍不住地将白天从说书人那里听来的故事复述给她听,起初她有些不耐烦,因为在她心目中,说书人都是油嘴滑舌、不务正业的人,从他们嘴里,冒不出什么好话来。但我复述的故事,渐渐地吸引了她。以后每逢集日,她便不再给我排活儿,默许我去集上听书。为了报答母亲的恩情,也为了向她炫耀我的记忆力,我会把白天听到的故事,绘声绘色地讲给她听。

It did not take long to find retelling someone else’s stories unsatisfying, so I began embellishing my narration. I’d say things I knew would please Mother, even changed the ending once in a while. And she wasn’t the only member of my audience, which later included my older sisters, my aunts, even my maternal grandmother. Sometimes, after my mother had listened to one of my stories, she’d ask in a care-laden voice, almost as if to herself: “What will you be like when you grow up, son? Might you wind up prattling for a living one day?”

很快的,我就不满足复述说书人讲的故事了,我在复述的过程中,不断地添油加醋。我会投我母亲所好,编造一些情节,有时候甚至改变故事的结局。我的听众,也不仅仅是我的母亲,连我的姐姐,我的婶婶,我的奶奶,都成为我的听众。我母亲在听完我的故事后,有时会忧心忡忡地,像是对我说,又像是自言自语:“儿啊,你长大后会成为一个什么人呢?难道要靠耍贫嘴吃饭吗?”

I knew why she was worried. Talkative kids are not well thought of in our village, for they can bring trouble to themselves and to their families. There is a bit of a young me in the talkative boy who falls afoul of villagers in my story “Bulls.” Mother habitually cautioned me not to talk so much, wanting me to be a taciturn, smooth and steady youngster. Instead I was possessed of a dangerous combination – remarkable speaking skills and the powerful desire that went with them. My ability to tell stories brought her joy, but that created a dilemma for her.

我理解母亲的担忧,因为在村子里,一个贫嘴的孩子,是招人厌烦的,有时候还会给自己和家庭带来麻烦。我在小说《牛》里所写的那个因为话多被村里人厌恶的孩子,就有我童年时的影子。我母亲经常提醒我少说话,她希望我能做一个沉默寡言、安稳大方的孩子。但在我身上,却显露出极强的说话能力和极大的说话欲望,这无疑是极大的危险,但我的说故事的能力,又带给了她愉悦,这使她陷入深深的矛盾之中。

A popular saying goes “It is easier to change the course of a river than a person’s nature.” Despite my parents’ tireless guidance, my natural desire to talk never went away, and that is what makes my name – Mo Yan, or “don’t speak” – an ironic expression of self-mockery.

俗话说“江山易改,本性难移”,尽管有我父母亲的谆谆教导,但我并没改掉我喜欢说话的天性,这使得我的名字“莫言”,很像对自己的讽刺。

After dropping out of elementary school, I was too small for heavy labor, so I became a cattle- and sheep-herder on a nearby grassy riverbank. The sight of my former schoolmates playing in the schoolyard when I drove my animals past the gate always saddened me and made me aware of how tough it is for anyone – even a child – to leave the group.

我小学未毕业即辍学,因为年幼体弱,干不了重活,只好到荒草滩上去放牧牛羊。当我牵着牛羊从学校门前路过,看到昔日的同学在校园里打打闹闹,我心中充满悲凉,深深地体会到一个人——哪怕是一个孩子——离开群体后的痛苦。

I turned the animals loose on the riverbank to graze beneath a sky as blue as the ocean and grass-carpeted land as far as the eye could see – not another person in sight, no human sounds, nothing but bird calls above me. I was all by myself and terribly lonely; my heart felt empty. Sometimes I lay in the grass and watched clouds float lazily by, which gave rise to all sorts of fanciful images. That part of the country is known for its tales of foxes in the form of beautiful young women, and I would fantasize a fox-turned-beautiful girl coming to tend animals with me. She never did come. Once, however, a fiery red fox bounded out of the brush in front of me, scaring my legs right out from under me. I was still sitting there trembling long after the fox had vanished. Sometimes I’d crouch down beside the cows and gaze into their deep blue eyes, eyes that captured my reflection. At times I’d have a dialogue with birds in the sky, mimicking their cries, while at other times I’d divulge my hopes and desires to a tree. But the birds ignored me, and so did the trees. Years later, after I’d become a novelist, I wrote some of those fantasies into my novels and stories. People frequently bombard me with compliments on my vivid imagination, and lovers of literature often ask me to divulge my secret to developing a rich imagination. My only response is a wan smile.

到了荒滩上,我把牛羊放开,让它们自己吃草。蓝天如海,草地一望无际,周围看不到一个人影,没有人的声音,只有鸟儿在天上鸣叫。我感到很孤独,很寂寞,心里空空荡荡。有时候,我躺在草
地上,望着天上懒洋洋地飘动着的白云,脑海里便浮现出许多莫名其妙的幻像。我们那地方流传着许多狐狸变成美女的故事。我幻想着能有一个狐狸变成美女与我来做伴放牛,但她始终没有出现。但有一次,一只火红色的狐狸从我面前的草丛中跳出来时,我被吓得一屁股蹲在地上。狐狸跑没了踪影,我还在那里颤抖。有时候我会蹲在牛的身旁,看着湛蓝的牛眼和牛眼中的我的倒影。有时候我会模仿着鸟儿的叫声试图与天上的鸟儿对话,有时候我会对一棵树诉说心声。但鸟儿不理我,树也不理我。——许多年后,当我成为一个小说家,当年的许多幻想,都被我写进了小说。很多人夸我想象力丰富,有一些文学爱好者,希望我能告诉他们培养想象力的秘诀,对此,我只能报以苦笑。

Our Taoist master Laozi said it best: “Fortune depends on misfortune. Misfortune is hidden in fortune.” I left school as a child, often went hungry, was constantly lonely, and had no books to read. But for those reasons, like the writer of a previous generation, Shen Congwen, I had an early start on reading the great book of life. My experience of going to the marketplace to listen to a storyteller was but one page of that book.

就像中国的先贤老子所说的那样:“福兮祸所伏,祸兮福所倚”,我童年辍学,饱受饥饿、孤独、无书可读之苦,但我因此也像我们的前辈作家沈从文那样,及早地开始阅读社会人生这本大书。前面所提到的到集市上去听说书人说书,仅仅是这本大书中的一页。

After leaving school, I was thrown uncomfortably into the world of adults, where I embarked on the long journey of learning through listening. Two hundred years ago, one of the great storytellers of all time – Pu Songling – lived near where I grew up, and where many people, me included, carried on the tradition he had perfected. Wherever I happened to be – working the fields with the collective, in production team cowsheds or stables, on my grandparents’ heated kang, even on oxcarts bouncing and swaying down the road, my ears filled with tales of the supernatural, historical romances, and strange and captivating stories, all tied to the natural environment and clan histories, and all of which created a powerful reality in my mind.

辍学之后,我混迹于成人之中,开始了“用耳朵阅读”的漫长生涯。二百多年前,我的故乡曾出了一个讲故事的伟大天才——蒲松龄,我们村里的许多人,包括我,都是他的传人。我在集体劳动的田间地头,在生产队的牛棚马厩,在我爷爷奶奶的热炕头上,甚至在摇摇晃晃地行进着的牛车上,聆听了许许多多神鬼故事,历史传奇,逸闻趣事,这些故事都与当地的自然环境、家族历史紧密联系在一起,使我产生了强烈的现实感。

Even in my wildest dreams, I could not have envisioned a day when all this would be the stuff of my own fiction, for I was just a boy who loved stories, who was infatuated with the tales people around me were telling. Back then I was, without a doubt, a theist, believing that all living creatures were endowed with souls. I’d stop and pay my respects to a towering old tree; if I saw a bird, I was sure it could become human any time it wanted; and I suspected every stranger I met of being a transformed beast. At night, terrible fears accompanied me on my way home after my work points were tallied, so I’d sing at the top of my lungs as I ran to build up a bit of courage. My voice, which was changing at the time, produced scratchy, squeaky songs that grated on the ears of any villager who heard me.

我做梦也想不到有朝一日这些东西会成为我的写作素材,我当时只是一个迷恋故事的孩子,醉心地聆听着人们的讲述。那时我是一个绝对的有神论者,我相信万物都有灵性,我见到一棵大树会肃然
起敬。我看到一只鸟会感到它随时会变化成人,我遇到一个陌生人,也会怀疑他是一个动物变化而成。每当夜晚我从生产队的记工房回家时,无边的恐惧便包围了我,为了壮胆,我一边奔跑一边大声歌唱。那时我正处在变声期,嗓音嘶哑,声调难听,我的歌唱,是对我的乡亲们的一种折磨。

I spent my first twenty-one years in that village, never traveling farther from home than to Qingdao, by train, where I nearly got lost amid the giant stacks of wood in a lumber mill. When my mother asked me what I’d seen in Qingdao, I reported sadly that all I’d seen were stacks of lumber. But that trip to Qingdao planted in me a powerful desire to leave my village and see the world.

我在故乡生活了二十一年,期间离家最远的是乘火车去了一次青岛,还差点迷失在木材厂的巨大木材之间,以至于我母亲问我去青岛看到了什么风景时,我沮丧地告诉她:什么都没看到,只看到了
一堆堆的木头。但也就是这次青岛之行,使我产生了想离开故乡到外边去看世界的强烈愿望。

In February 1976 I was recruited into the army and walked out of the Northeast Gaomi Township village I both loved and hated, entering a critical phase of my life, carrying in my backpack the four-volume Brief History of China my mother had bought by selling her wedding jewelry. Thus began the most important period of my life. I must admit that were it not for the thirty-odd years of tremendous development and progress in Chinese society, and the subsequent national reform and opening of her doors to the outside, I would not be a writer today.

1976 年2 月,我应征入伍,背着我母亲卖掉结婚时的首饰帮我购买的四本《中国通史简编》,走出了高密东北乡这个既让我爱又让我恨的地方,开始了我人生的重要时期。我必须承认,如果没有
30 多年来中国社会的巨大发展与进步,如果没有改革开放,也不会有我这样一个作家。

In the midst of mind-numbing military life, I welcomed the ideological emancipation and literary fervor of the nineteen-eighties, and evolved from a boy who listened to stories and passed them on by word of mouth into someone who experimented with writing them down. It was a rocky road at first, a time when I had not yet discovered how rich a source of literary material my two decades of village life could be. I thought that literature was all about good people doing good things, stories of heroic deeds and model citizens, so that the few pieces of mine that were published had little literary value.

在军营的枯燥生活中,我迎来了八十年代的思想解放和文学热潮,我从一个用耳朵聆听故事,用嘴巴讲述故事的孩子,开始尝试用笔来讲述故事。起初的道路并不平坦,我那时并没有意识到我二十多年的农村生活经验是文学的富矿,那时我以为文学就是写好人好事,就是写英雄模范,所以,尽管也发表了几篇作品,但文学价值很低。

In the fall of 1984 I was accepted into the Literature Department of the PLA Art Academy, where, under the guidance of my revered mentor, the renowned writer Xu Huaizhong, I wrote a series of stories and novellas, including: “Autumn Floods,” “Dry River,” “The Transparent Carrot,” and “Red Sorghum.” Northeast Gaomi Township made its first appearance in “Autumn Floods,” and from that moment on, like a wandering peasant who finds his own piece of land, this literary vagabond found a place he could call his own. I must say that in the course of creating my literary domain, Northeast Gaomi Township, I was greatly inspired by the American novelist William Faulkner and the Columbian Gabriel García Márquez. I had not read either of them extensively, but was encouraged by the bold, unrestrained way they created new territory in writing, and learned from them that a writer must have a place that belongs to him alone. Humility and compromise are ideal in one’s daily life, but in literary creation, supreme self-confidence and the need to follow one’s own instincts are essential. For two years I followed in the footsteps of these two masters before realizing that I had to escape their influence; this is how I characterized that decision in an essay: They were a pair of blazing furnaces, I was a block of ice. If I got too close to them, I would dissolve into a cloud of steam. In my understanding, one writer influences another when they enjoy a profound spiritual kinship, what is often referred to as “hearts beating in unison.” That explains why, though I had read little of their work, a few pages were sufficient for me to comprehend what they were doing and how they were doing it, which led to my understanding of what I should do and how I should do it.

1984 年秋,我考入解放军艺术学院文学系。在我的恩师著名作家徐怀中的启发指导下,我写出了《秋水》、《枯河》、《透明的红萝卜》、《红高粱》等一批中短篇小说。在《秋水》这篇小说里,第一次出现了“高密东北乡”这个字眼,从此,就如同一个四处游荡的农民有了一片土地,我这样一个文学的流浪汉,终于有了一个可以安身立命的场所。我必须承认,在创建我的文学领地“高密东北乡”的过程中,美国的威廉·福克纳和哥伦比亚的加西亚·马尔克斯给了我重要启发。我对他们的阅读并不认真,但他们开天辟地的豪迈精神激励了我,使我明白了一个作家必须要有一块属于自己的地方。一个人在日常生活中应该谦卑退让,但在文学创作中,必须颐指气使,独断专行。我追随在这两位大师身后两年,即意识到,必须尽快地逃离他们,我在一篇文章中写道:他们是两座灼热的火炉,而我是冰块,如果离他们太近,会被他们蒸发掉。根据我的体会,一个作家之所以会受到某一位作家的影响,其根本是因为影响者和被影响者灵魂深处的相似之处。正所谓“心有灵犀一点通”。所以,尽管我没有很好地去读他们的书,但只读过几页,我就明白了他们干了什么,也明白了他们是怎样干的,随即我也就明白了我该干什么和我该怎样干。

What I should do was simplicity itself: Write my own stories in my own way. My way was that of the marketplace storyteller, with which I was so familiar, the way my grandfather and my grandmother and other village old-timers told stories. In all candor, I never gave a thought to audience when I was telling my stories; perhaps my audience was made up of people like my mother, and perhaps it was only me. The early stories were narrations of my personal experience: the boy who received a whipping in “Dry River,” for instance, or the boy who never spoke in “The Transparent Carrot.” I had actually done something bad enough to receive a whipping from my father, and I had actually worked the bellows for a blacksmith on a bridge site. Naturally, personal experience cannot be turned into fiction exactly as it happened, no matter how unique that might be. Fiction has to be fictional, has to be imaginative. To many of my friends, “The Transparent Carrot” is my very best story; I have no opinion one way or the other. What I can say is, “The Transparent Carrot” is more symbolic and more profoundly meaningful than any other story I’ve written. That dark-skinned boy with the superhuman ability to suffer and a superhuman degree of sensitivity represents the soul of my entire fictional output. Not one of all the fictional characters I’ve created since then is as close to my soul as he is. Or put a different way, among all the characters a writer creates, there is always one that stands above all the others. For me, that laconic boy is the one. Though he says nothing, he leads the way for all the others, in all their variety, performing freely on the Northeast Gaomi Township stage.

我该干的事情其实很简单,那就是用自己的方式,讲自己的故事。我的方式,就是我所熟知的集市说书人的方式,就是我的爷爷奶奶、村里的老人们讲故事的方式。坦率地说,讲述的时候,我没有想到谁会是我的听众,也许我的听众就是那些如我母亲一样的人,也许我的听众就是我自己,我自己的故事,起初就是我的亲身经历,譬如《枯河》中那个遭受痛打的孩子,譬如《透明的红萝卜》中那个自始至终一言不发的孩子。我的确曾因为干过一件错事而受到过父亲的痛打,我也的确曾在桥梁工地上为铁匠师傅拉过风箱。当然,个人的经历无论多么奇特也不可能原封不动地写进小说,小说必须虚构,必须想象。很多朋友说《透明的红萝卜》是我最好的小说,对此我不反驳,也不
认同,但我认为《透明的红萝卜》是我的作品中最有象征性、最意味深长的一部。那个浑身漆黑、具有超人的忍受痛苦的能力和超人的感受能力的孩子,是我全部小说的灵魂,尽管在后来的小说里,我写了很多的人物,但没有一个人物,比他更贴近我的灵魂。或者可以说,一个作家所塑造的若干人物中,总有一个领头的,这个沉默的孩子就是一个领头的,他一言不发,但却有力地领导着形形色色的人物,在高密东北乡这个舞台上,尽情地表演。

A person can experience only so much, and once you have exhausted your own stories, you must tell the stories of others. And so, out of the depths of my memories, like conscripted soldiers, rose stories of family members, of fellow villagers, and of long-dead ancestors I learned of from the mouths of old-timers. They waited expectantly for me to tell their stories. My grandfather and grandmother, my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, my aunts and uncles, my wife and my daughter have all appeared in my stories. Even unrelated residents of Northeast Gaomi Township have made cameo appearances. Of course they have undergone literary modification to transform them into larger-than-life fictional characters.

自己的故事总是有限的,讲完了自己的故事,就必须讲他人的故事。于是,我的亲人们的故事,我的村人们的故事,以及我从老人们口中听到过的祖先们的故事,就像听到集合令的士兵一样,从我的记忆深处涌出来。他们用期盼的目光看着我,等待着我去写他们。我的爷爷、奶奶、父亲、母亲、哥哥、姐姐、姑姑、叔叔、妻子、女儿,都在我的作品里出现过,还有很多的我们高密东北乡的乡亲,也都在我的小说里露过面。当然,我对他们,都进行了文学化的处理,使他们超越了他们自身,成为文学中的人物。

An aunt of mine is the central character of my latest novel, Frogs. The announcement of the Nobel Prize sent journalists swarming to her home with interview requests. At first, she was patiently accommodating, but she soon had to escape their attentions by fleeing to her son’s home in the provincial capital. I don’t deny that she was my model in writing Frogs, but the differences between her and the fictional aunt are extensive. The fictional aunt is arrogant and domineering, in places virtually thuggish, while my real aunt is kind and gentle, the classic caring wife and loving mother. My real aunt’s golden years have been happy and fulfilling; her fictional counterpart suffers insomnia in her late years as a result of spiritual torment, and walks the nights like a specter, wearing a dark robe. I am grateful to my real aunt for not being angry with me for how I changed her in the novel. I also greatly respect her wisdom in comprehending the complex relationship between fictional characters and real people.

我最新的小说《蛙》中,就出现了我姑姑的形象。因为我获得诺贝尔奖,许多记者到她家采访,起初她还很耐心地回答提问,但很快便不胜其烦,跑到县城里她儿子家躲起来了。姑姑确实是我写《蛙》时的模特,但小说中的姑姑,与现实生活中的姑姑有着天壤之别。小说中的姑姑专横跋扈,有时简直像个女匪,现实中的姑姑和善开朗,是一个标准的贤妻良母。现实中的姑姑晚年生活幸福美满,小说中的姑姑到了晚年却因为心灵的巨大痛苦患上了失眠症,身披黑袍,像个幽灵一样在暗夜中游荡。我感谢姑姑的宽容,她没有因为我在小说中把她写成那样而生气;我也十分敬佩我姑姑的明智,她正确地理解了小说中人物与现实中人物的复杂关系。

After my mother died, in the midst of almost crippling grief, I decided to write a novel for her. Big Breasts and Wide Hips is that novel. Once my plan took shape, I was burning with such emotion that I completed a draft of half a million words in only eighty-three days.

母亲去世后,我悲痛万分,决定写一部书献给她。这就是那本《丰乳肥臀》。因为胸有成竹,因为情感充盈,仅用了83 天,我便写出了这部长达50 万字的小说的初稿。

In Big Breasts and Wide Hips I shamelessly used material associated with my mother’s actual experience, but the fictional mother’s emotional state is either a total fabrication or a composite of many of Northeast Gaomi Township’s mothers. Though I wrote “To the spirit of my mother” on the dedication page, the novel was really written for all mothers everywhere, evidence, perhaps, of my overweening ambition, in much the same way as I hope to make tiny Northeast Gaomi Township a microcosm of China, even of the whole world.

在《丰乳肥臀》这本书里,我肆无忌惮地使用了与我母亲的亲身经历有关的素材,但书中的母亲情感方面的经历,则是虚构或取材于高密东北乡诸多母亲的经历。在这本书的卷前语上,我写下了“献给母亲在天之灵”的话,但这本书,实际上是献给天下母亲的,这是我狂妄的野心,就像我希望把小小的“高密东北乡”写成中国乃至世界的缩影一样。

The process of creation is unique to every writer. Each of my novels differs from the others in terms of plot and guiding inspiration. Some, such as “The Transparent Carrot,” were born in dreams, while others, like The Garlic Ballads have their origin in actual events. Whether the source of a work is a dream or real life, only if it is integrated with individual experience can it be imbued with individuality, be populated with typical characters molded by lively detail, employ richly evocative language, and boast a well crafted structure. Here I must point out that in The Garlic Ballads I introduced a real-life storyteller and singer in one of the novel’s most important roles. I wish I hadn’t used his real name, though his words and actions were made up. This is a recurring phenomenon with me. I’ll start out using characters’ real names in order to achieve a sense of intimacy, and after the work is finished, it will seem too late to change those names. This has led to people who see their names in my novels going to my father to vent their displeasure. He always apologizes in my place, but then urges them not to take such things so seriously. He’ll say: “The first sentence in Red Sorghum, ‘My father, a bandit’s offspring,’ didn’t upset me, so why should you be unhappy?”

作家的创作过程各有特色,我每本书的构思与灵感触发也都不尽相同。有的小说起源于梦境,譬如《透明的红萝卜》,有的小说则发端于现实生活中发生的事件——譬如《天堂蒜薹之歌》。但无论是起源于梦境还是发端于现实,最后都必须和个人的经验相结合,才有可能变成一部具有鲜明个性的,用无数生动细节塑造出了典型人物的、语言丰富多彩、结构匠心独运的文学作品。有必要特别提及的是,在《天堂蒜薹之歌》中,我让一个真正的说书人登场,并在书中扮演了十分重要的角色。我十分抱歉地使用了这个说书人真实姓名,当然,他在书中的所有行为都是虚构。在我的写作中,出现过多次这样的现象,写作之初,我使用他们的真实姓名,希望能借此获得一种亲近感,但作品完成之后,我想为他们改换姓名时却感到已经不可能了,因此也发生过与我小说中人物同名者找到我父亲发泄不满的事情,我父亲替我向他们道歉,但同时又开导他们不要当真。我父亲说:“他在《红高粱》中,第一句就说‘我父亲这个土匪种’,我都不在意你们还在意什么?”

My greatest challenges come with writing novels that deal with social realities, such as The Garlic Ballads, not because I’m afraid of being openly critical of the darker aspects of society, but because heated emotions and anger allow politics to suppress literature and transform a novel into reportage of a social event. As a member of society, a novelist is entitled to his own stance and viewpoint; but when he is writing he must take a humanistic stance, and write accordingly. Only then can literature not just originate in events, but transcend them, not just show concern for politics but be greater than politics.

我在写作《天堂蒜薹之歌》这类逼近社会现实的小说时,面对着的最大问题,其实不是我敢不敢对社会上的黑暗现象进行批评,而是这燃烧的激情和愤怒会让政治压倒文学,使这部小说变成一个社会事件的纪实报告。小说家是社会中人,他自然有自己的立场和观点,但小说家在写作时,必须站在人的立场上,把所有的人都当做人来写。只有这样,文学才能发端事件但超越事件,关心政治但大于政治。

Possibly because I’ve lived so much of my life in difficult circumstances, I think I have a more profound understanding of life. I know what real courage is, and I understand true compassion. I know that nebulous terrain exists in the hearts and minds of every person, terrain that cannot be adequately characterized in simple terms of right and wrong or good and bad, and this vast territory is where a writer gives free rein to his talent. So long as the work correctly and vividly describes this nebulous, massively contradictory terrain, it will inevitably transcend politics and be endowed with literary excellence.

可能是因为我经历过长期的艰难生活,使我对人性有较为深刻的了解。我知道真正的勇敢是什么,也明白真正的悲悯是什么。我知道,每个人心中都有一片难用是非善恶准确定性的朦胧地带,而这片地带,正是文学家施展才华的广阔天地。只要是准确地、生动地描写了这个充满矛盾的朦胧地带的作品,也就必然地超越了政治并具备了优秀文学的品质。

Prattling on and on about my own work must be annoying, but my life and works are inextricably linked, so if I don’t talk about my work, I don’t know what else to say. I hope you are in a forgiving mood.

喋喋不休地讲述自己的作品是令人厌烦的,但我的人生是与我的作品紧密相连的,不讲作品,我感到无从下嘴,所以还得请各位原谅。

I was a modern-day storyteller who hid in the background of his early work; but with the novel Sandalwood Death I jumped out of the shadows. My early work can be characterized as a series of soliloquies, with no reader in mind; starting with this novel, however, I visualized myself standing in a public square spiritedly telling my story to a crowd of listeners. This tradition is a worldwide phenomenon in fiction, but is especially so in China. At one time, I was a diligent student of Western modernist fiction, and I experimented with all sorts of narrative styles. But in the end I came back to my traditions. To be sure, this return was not without its modifications. Sandalwood Death and the novels that followed are inheritors of the Chinese classical novel tradition but enhanced by Western literary techniques. What is known as innovative fiction is, for the most part, a result of this mixture, which is not limited to domestic traditions with foreign techniques, but can include mixing fiction with art from other realms. Sandalwood Death, for instance, mixes fiction with local opera, while some of my early work was partly nurtured by fine art, music, even acrobatics.

在我的早期作品中,我作为一个现代的说书人,是隐藏在文本背后的,但从《檀香刑》这部小说开始,我终于从后台跳到了前台。如果说我早期的作品是自言自语,目无读者,从这本书开始,我感觉到自己是站在一个广场上,面对着许多听众,绘声绘色地讲述。这是世界小说的传统,更是中国小说的传统。我也曾积极地向西方的现代派小说学习,也曾经玩弄过形形色色的叙事花样,但我最终回归了传统。当然,这种回归,不是一成不变的回归,《檀香刑》和之后的小说,是继承了中国古典小说传统又借鉴了西方小说技术的混合文本。小说领域的所谓创新,基本上都是这种混合的产物。不仅仅是本国文学传统与外国小说技巧的混合,也是小说与其他的艺术门类的混合,就像《檀香刑》是与民间戏曲的混合,就像我早期的一些小说从美术、音乐、甚至杂技中汲取了营养一样。

Finally, I ask your indulgence to talk about my novel Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out. The Chinese title comes from Buddhist scripture, and I’ve been told that my translators have had fits trying to render it into their languages. I am not especially well versed in Buddhist scripture and have but a superficial understanding of the religion. I chose this title because I believe that the basic tenets of the Buddhist faith represent universal knowledge, and that mankind’s many disputes are utterly without meaning in the Buddhist realm. In that lofty view of the universe, the world of man is to be pitied. My novel is not a religious tract; in it I wrote of man’s fate and human emotions, of man’s limitations and human generosity, and of people’s search for happiness and the lengths to which they will go, the sacrifices they will make, to uphold their beliefs. Lan Lian, a character who takes a stand against contemporary trends, is, in my view, a true hero. A peasant in a neighboring village was the model for this character. As a youngster I often saw him pass by our door pushing a creaky, wooden-wheeled cart, with a lame donkey up front, led by his bound-foot wife. Given the collective nature of society back then, this strange labor group presented a bizarre sight that kept them out of step with the times. In the eyes of us children, they were clowns marching against historical trends, provoking in us such indignation that we threw stones at them as they passed us on the street. Years later, after I had begun writing, that peasant and the tableau he presented floated into my mind, and I knew that one day I would write a novel about him, that sooner or later I would tell his story to the world. But it wasn’t until the year 2005, when I viewed the Buddhist mural “The Six Stages of Samsara” on a temple wall that I knew exactly how to go about telling his story.

最后,请允许我再讲一下我的《生死疲劳》。这个书名来自佛教经典,据我所知,为翻译这个书名,各国的翻译家都很头痛。我对佛教经典并没有深入研究,对佛教的理解自然十分肤浅,之所以以此为题,是因为我觉得佛教的许多基本思想,是真正的宇宙意识,人世中许多纷争,在佛家的眼里,是毫无意义的。这样一种至高眼界下的人世,显得十分可悲。当然,我没有把这本书写成布道词,我写的还是人的命运与人的情感,人的局限与人的宽容,以及人为追求幸福、坚持自己的信念所做出的努力与牺牲。小说中那位以一己之身与时代潮流对抗的蓝脸,在我心目中是一位真正的英雄。这个人物的原型,是我们邻村的一位农民,我童年时,经常看到他推着一辆吱吱作响的木轮车,从我家门前的道路上通过。给他拉车的,是一头瘸腿的毛驴,为他牵驴的,是他小脚的妻子。这个奇怪的劳动组合,在当时的集体化社会里,显得那么古怪和不合时宜,在我们这些孩子的眼里,也把他们看成是逆历史潮流而动的小丑,以至于当他们从街上经过时,我们会充满义愤地朝他们投掷石块。事过多年,当我拿起笔来写作时,这个人物,这个画面,便浮现在我的脑海中。我知道,我总有一天会为他写一本书,我迟早要把他的故事讲给天下人听,但一直到了2005年,当我在一座庙宇里看到“六道轮回”的壁画时,才明白了讲述这个故事的正确方法。

The announcement of my Nobel Prize has led to controversy. At first I thought I was the target of the disputes, but over time I’ve come to realize that the real target was a person who had nothing to do with me. Like someone watching a play in a theater, I observed the performances around me. I saw the winner of the prize both garlanded with flowers and besieged by stone-throwers and mudslingers. I was afraid he would succumb to the assault, but he emerged from the garlands of flowers and the stones, a smile on his face; he wiped away mud and grime, stood calmly off to the side, and said to the crowd:

For a writer, the best way to speak is by writing. You will find everything I need to say in my works. Speech is carried off by the wind; the written word can never be obliterated. I would like you to find the patience to read my books. I cannot force you to do that, and even if you do, I do not expect your opinion of me to change. No writer has yet appeared, anywhere in the world, who is liked by all his readers; that is especially true during times like these.

我获得诺贝尔文学奖后,引发了一些争议。起初,我还以为大家争议的对象是我,渐渐的,我感到这个被争议的对象,是一个与我毫不相关的人。我如同一个看戏人,看着众人的表演。我看到那个得奖人身上落满了花朵,也被掷上了石块、泼上了污水。我生怕他被打垮,但他微笑着从花朵和石块中钻出来,擦干净身上的脏水,坦然地站在一边,对着众人说:

对一个作家来说,最好的说话方式是写作。我该说的话都写进了我的作品里。用嘴说出的话随风而散,用笔写出的话永不磨灭。我希望你们能耐心地读一下我的书,当然,我没有资格强迫你们读我的书。即便你们读了我的书,我也不期望你们能改变对我的看法,世界上还没有一个作家,能让所有的读者都喜欢他。在当今这样的时代里,更是如此。

Even though I would prefer to say nothing, since it is something I must do on this occasion, let me just say this:

I am a storyteller, so I am going to tell you some stories.

When I was a third-grade student in the 1960s, my school organized a field trip to an exhibit of suffering, where, under the direction of our teacher, we cried bitter tears. I let my tears stay on my cheeks for the benefit of our teacher, and watched as some of my classmates spat in their hands and rubbed it on their faces as pretend tears. I saw one student among all those wailing children – some real, some phony – whose face was dry and who remained silent without covering his face with his hands. He just looked at us, eyes wide open in an expression of surprise or confusion. After the visit I reported him to the teacher, and he was given a disciplinary warning. Years later, when I expressed my remorse over informing on the boy, the teacher said that at least ten students had done what I did. The boy himself had died a decade or more earlier, and my conscience was deeply troubled when I thought of him. But I learned something important from this incident, and that is: When everyone around you is crying, you deserve to be allowed not to cry, and when the tears are all for show, your right not to cry is greater still.

尽管我什么都不想说,但在今天这样的场合我必须说话,那我就简单地再说几句。

我是一个讲故事的人,我还是要给你们讲故事。

上世纪六十年代,我上小学三年级的时候,学校里组织我们去参观一个苦难展览,我们在老师的引领下放声大哭。为了能让老师看到我的表现,我舍不得擦去脸上的泪水。我看到有几位同学悄悄地将唾沫抹到脸上冒充泪水。我还看到在一片真哭假哭的同学之间,有一位同学,脸上没有一滴泪,嘴巴里没有一点声音,也没有用手掩面。他睁着大眼看着我们,眼睛里流露出惊讶或者是困惑的神情。事后,我向老师报告了这位同学的行为。为此,学校给了这位同学一个警告处分。多年之后,当我因自己的告密向老师忏悔时,老师说,那天来找他说这件事的,有十几个同学。这位同学十几年前就已去世,每当想起他,我就深感歉疚。这件事让我悟到一个道理,那就是:当众人都哭时,应该允许有的人不哭。当哭成为一种表演时,更应该允许有的人不哭。

Here is another story: More than thirty years ago, when I was in the army, I was in my office reading one evening when an elderly officer opened the door and came in. He glanced down at the seat in front of me and muttered, “Hm, where is everyone?” I stood up and said in a loud voice, “Are you saying I’m no one?” The old fellow’s ears turned red from embarrassment, and he walked out. For a long time after that I was proud about what I consider a gutsy performance. Years later, that pride turned to intense qualms of conscience.

我再讲一个故事:三十多年前,我还在部队工作。有一天晚上,我在办公室看书,有一位老长官推门进来,看了一眼我对面的位置,自言自语道:“噢,没有人?”我随即站起来,高声说:“难道我不是人吗?”那位老长官被我顶得面红耳赤,尴尬而退。为此事,我洋洋得意了许久,以为自己是个英勇的斗士,但事过多年后,我却为此深感内疚。

Bear with me, please, for one last story, one my grandfather told me many years ago: A group of eight out-of-town bricklayers took refuge from a storm in a rundown temple. Thunder rumbled outside, sending fireballs their way. They even heard what sounded like dragon shrieks. The men were terrified, their faces ashen. “Among the eight of us,” one of them said, “is someone who must have offended the heavens with a terrible deed. The guilty person ought to volunteer to step outside to accept his punishment and spare the innocent from suffering. Naturally, there were no volunteers. So one of the others came up with a proposal: Since no one is willing to go outside, let’s all fling our straw hats toward the door. Whoever’s hat flies out through the temple door is the guilty party, and we’ll ask him to go out and accept his punishment.” So they flung their hats toward the door. Seven hats were blown back inside; one went out the door. They pressured the eighth man to go out and accept his punishment, and when he balked, they picked him up and flung him out the door. I’ll bet you all know how the story ends: They had no sooner flung him out the door than the temple collapsed around them.

请允许我讲最后一个故事,这是许多年前我爷爷讲给我听过的:有八个外出打工的泥瓦匠,为避一场暴风雨,躲进了一座破庙。外边的雷声一阵紧似一阵,一个个的火球,在庙门外滚来滚去,空中似乎还有吱吱的龙叫声。众人都胆战心惊,面如土色。有一个人说:“我们八个人中,必定一个人干过伤天害理的坏事,谁干过坏事,就自己走出庙接受惩罚吧,免得让好人受到牵连。”自然没有人愿意出去。又有人提议道:“既然大家都不想出去,那我们就将自己的草帽往外抛吧,谁的草帽被刮出庙门,就说明谁干了坏事,那就请他出去接受惩罚。”于是大家就将自己的草帽往庙门外抛,七个人的草帽被刮回了庙内,只有一个人的草帽被卷了出去。大家就催这个人出去受罚,他自然不愿出去,众人便将他抬起来扔出了庙门。故事的结局我估计大家都猜到了——那个人刚被扔出庙门,那座破庙轰然坍塌。

I am a storyteller.

Telling stories earned me the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Many interesting things have happened to me in the wake of winning the prize, and they have convinced me that truth and justice are alive and well.

So I will continue telling my stories in the days to come.

Thank you all.

我是一个讲故事的人。
因为讲故事我获得了诺贝尔文学奖。
我获奖后发生了很多精彩的故事,这些故事,让我坚信真理
和正义是存在的。
今后的岁月里,我将继续讲我的故事。
谢谢大家!

【Translated by Howard Goldblatt】

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9 thoughts on “Mo Yan: a storyteller’s moving reminiscence of life

  1. ShimonZ

    Thank you , Janet, for sharing with us the Nobel prize speech of this great writer, Though I decided to read at least one of his works, I have a long list of things I want to read, waiting patiently in line, and I haven’t gotten to his books yet. But this speech has convinced me that he is a person I want to read more of. I was very moved by his references to his mother, his childhood, and the path he took to becoming a writer. Usually, when I read something about childhood, I stop reading immediately. This is because my own childhood was such suffering and torture, that each time I am reminded of it, I lose my grip on this world, as I have learned to balance it against the weight of my soul, as an adult. But this time, reading the words of MO Yan, I was inspired, Instead of reacting with fear and misery, reminded of the hell I had gone through, I was inspired to start writing about myself, a subject that I have always avoided. For his quote of the Taoist master Laozi, who said “Fortune depends on misfortune” reminded me that everything I am today, and all of what I’ve accomplished in life, has been thanks to the misfortune I encountered when I first came into this world.

    I might have missed a few of your posts, Janet. Because I have not been reading blogs recently. My old mother died at the age of 101. And two days later, we were attacked by our neighbors who sent rockets into our city. I was very distracted by all of this; nervous and mourning… and I stopped reading blogs for a while. But I am very glad that when I was finally ready to read what others were publishing, I came across this post, and found inspiration on your blog. Thank you very much for that.

  2. Janet Williams Post author

    Dear Shimon,

    Thank you for your heart-felt feedback. MO Yan has received a fair amount of criticism after his winning of the Nobel Prize. People are questioning his political status and his stance on human right. However, some people may have forgotten it’s a prize in Literature. I’m half way though his short stories and I’m enthralled.

    This speech struck me as genuine and innocence. I was taken to his childhood and his raw emotions. It’s powerful story-telling. More importantly, these are well written and absorbing stories.

    It delights me to know that you’ve been inspired and you would start writing about your childhood. Soul searching is never easy. One has to be brave and introspective. I applaud you for attempting to write about your stories, and, painful they might be, the process itself could be cathartic.

    I hope I’m fortunate enough to read your stories one day. Your stories on your blog have always been captivating.

    Regarding ‘Fortune depends on misfortune’, it reminds me of a familiar Chinese story about an old man who lost his horse. Is losing one’s horse bad enough?

    (From http://www.yellowbridge.com/literature/horse.php )

    The Lost Horse
    塞翁失馬
    A man who lived on the northern frontier of China was skilled in interpreting events. One day for no reason, his horse ran away to the nomads across the border. Everyone tried to console him, but his father said, “What makes you so sure this isn’t a blessing?” Some months later his horse returned, bringing a splendid nomad stallion. Everyone congratulated him, but his father said, “What makes you so sure this isn’t a disaster?” Their household was richer by a fine horse, which the son loved to ride. One day he fell and broke his hip. Everyone tried to console him, but his father said, “What makes you so sure this isn’t a blessing?”

    A year later the nomads came in force across the border, and every able-bodied man took his bow and went into battle. The Chinese frontiersmen lost nine of every ten men. Only because the son was lame did father and son survive to take care of each other. Truly, blessing turns to disaster, and disaster to blessing: the changes have no end, nor can the mystery be fathomed.

    Commentary
    塞翁失馬 (sai weng shi ma), the title of this story, is actually a commonly used Chinese idiom or chengyu . It literally translates as “Old Sai loses a horse”. Old Sai is the wise man in the fable. The expression is used to remind others to take life in stride because things aren’t really as good (or bad) as they seem. Certainly seems like a wise advice for a society that lives only for the present.

    1. ShimonZ

      Well, I have to tell you that I didn’t enjoy this story as much as I did what I read earlier… but I will have to read one of his books to really know how I feel about him. I appreciate, and thank you for introducing me to this fine writer, and I will let you know what I think, as I get to know him better.

  3. Red Slider

    Janet, Indeed the speech was both moving and thought provoking. May I suggest you might consider also posting the link on Michael Rothenberg’s ‘100 Thousand Poets for Change’ FB page ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/100TPCHub/396977713715176/?notif_t=group_activity ) — I’m certain the poets and artists there will find it most interesting. As well, you and your readers might also like to consider organizing events in your own communities for the next ‘Day of Change’ in Sept. 2013. The last two years presentations were enormously successful with more 600 events being hosted by local groups in over 120 countries. Instructions on signing up can also be found through links on that page. Thanks again for making Mo Yan’s contributions more widely known and appreciated.

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