Among the works highlighted by the Nobel judges were "Red Sorghum" (1987) and "Big Breasts & Wide Hips" (2004), as well as "The Garlic Ballads." ''Frogs" (2009) looked at forced abortions and other coercive aspects of the government's policies restricting most families to one child.
His output has been prolific, which has contributed to his popularity and his impact. His works have been translated into English, Russian, French, German and many other languages, giving him an audience well beyond the Chinese-speaking world. Mo has a top literary agent, Andrew Wylie, who was at the Frankfurt book fair in Germany when he learned of Mo's Nobel and told The Associated Press: "We are in discussions globally." Several of his books quickly sold out Thursday on Amazon.com, although few copies likely were in stock.
Mo is probably best known to English-language readers for "Red Sorghum," thanks in part to Zhang Yimou's acclaimed film adaptation. The novel has sold nearly 50,000 copies in the U.S., according to the publisher Penguin Group (USA), a strong number for a translated work. Most of Mo's books in the U.S. have been released by Arcade Publishing, whose founder, the late Richard Seaver, had previously worked with Samuel Beckett, Henry Miller and other writers who faced battles with censors.
"Dick Seaver was Mo Yan's champion from the beginning and admired this exceptional writer's unique and original voice," Seaver's widow, Jeannette Seaver, said in a statement. "He was constantly reading passages to me."
Mo has said that censorship is a great spur to creativity.
"In our real life there might be some sharp or sensitive issues that (censors) do not wish to touch upon," he said in an interview with the literary magazine Granta earlier this year. "At such a juncture a writer can inject their own imagination to isolate them from the real world or maybe they can exaggerate the situation — making sure it is bold, vivid and has the signature of our real world."