Mo Yan fyllde Aula Magna. Foto: Eva Dalin
Mo Yan filled the auditorium in Aula Magna. Photo: Eva Dalin

This year's Nobel Prize laureate in literature, the Chinese writer Mo Yan, visited Stockholm University and Aula Magna on Sunday. Interest was high. The 1200 seats in the auditorium were filled and more than hundred people watched the programme on television screens outside of the auditorium. 

Mo Yan. Photo: Eva Dalin
Mo Yan. Photo: Eva Dalin

Vice-Chancellor Kåre Bremer welcomed Mo Yan to Stockholm University and spoke about the long tradition of China research at the University. Kåre Bremer also reminded that several previous literature laureates have appeared in front of an audience in Aula Magna. 

The programme began with Mo Yan and actor Johan Rabaeus reading from two of Mo Yan's works in Chinese and Swedish.

Watch the web films from the live broadcast

“Unique Chinese voice”

Torbjörn Lodén, professor of Chinese language and culture at Stockholm University, spoke about Mo Yan's authorship which is deeply rooted in the Chinese storytelling tradition. Although Mo Yan has been influenced by Western authors, Torbjörn Lodén emphasized that he is a “unique Chinese voice.” He also described the literature laureate as an extremely productive writer with 11 novels and over 100 short stories. Torbjörn Lodén also highlighted the elements of fantasy in Mo Yan's works and said that it can be read as social criticism.

“Authors have the right to choose”

The afternoon’s compère Hanna Zetterberg interviewed Mo Yan. Among other things, she asked about which themes he wants to describe in his works and if it is easier for a Chinese audience to understand his work. Hanna Zetterberg also asked Mo Yan how it feels to have been thrown into a political debate about his authorship.

“Everyone has the right to ask questions. But as a writer, I have the right to choose to respond or not respond,” said Mo Yan.

When asked about imprisoned Chinese writers, he replied that he had not heard that there are many writers in prison and that there are complex reasons for this.

Admitted censorship in China

Hanna Zetterberg also asked about censorship in China. Mo Yan said that he has never praised censorship but admitted that there is censorship in China. He also said that censorship is worse in the West - but that he hopes for all censorship to be abolished.

Before there was time for questions from the audience, Torbjörn Lodén spoke briefly about the future of Chinese literature. According to him, the coordinates for what writers can write have become less strict; even if there have been some setbacks in recent years.

Over half of the audience was Chinese, and many wanted to take pictures when the Nobel laureate entered the auditorium. On several occasions the audience burst into spontaneous applause.