David Liu | 11 October 2012
Chinese writer Mo Yan (a pen name that roughly translates to “don’t speak,” referring to the collective sentiment toward the political climate of 1950s China), was announced as the 2012 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature this morning. Over the years, the Shandong native has seen several of his works adapted into feature films.
In 1987, Fifth Generation director Zhang Yimou burst onto the international scene with his first feature Red Sorghum (红高粱), adapted from Mo Yan’s novel of the same name. Painting an unorthodox portrait of 20th century China through the eyes of sorghum distillery workers, the film went on to win the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival — China’s first major win on the global festival circuit.
For his 2000 tragicomedy Happy Times (幸福时光), Zhang returned to Mo as a literary source — this time loosely adapting the latter’s novella Shifu: You’ll Do Anything for a Laugh (师傅越来越幽默) into a Chaplinesque tale of a nebbish factory worker and a neglected blind girl.
Zhang’s fellow Beijing Film Academy classmate Huo Jianqi adapted Mo’s short story The White Dog and the Swing (白狗秋千架) into his 2003 feature Nuan (暖), a small-scale rural drama about love and lost innocence in modern China.