The best is yet to come, says Mao Dun winner Mo Yan

Updated: 2011-09-21 07:50

By Yang guang (China Daily)

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"The great novel that matches the great times has yet to be written," writer Mo Yan says at the awards ceremony of the Eighth Mao Dun Literature Prize, held on Sept 19 at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing.

It is out here, beckoning us, but the path to it remains unclear, he adds.

Mo, together with Zhang Wei, Liu Xinglong, Bi Feiyu and Liu Zhenyun, won this year's Mao Dun Literature Prize, the country's most prestigious literary prize for novels, awarded every four years. For the first time, since the establishment of the prize in 1982, each winner was given 500,000 yuan ($78,200).

The five award-winning novels deal with different themes.

You Are on the Highland by Zhang Wei recounts the vicissitudes experienced by four generations of a family over 100 years of the nation's political and social transformation.

Sky Walker by Liu Xinglong narrates the struggles and hopes of "citizen-managed" teachers - teachers in rural schools who are not paid by the government and have to survive on what the village heads give them - in a mountain village.

Frog by Mo Yan examines the country's family-planning policy through the life of a rural gynecologist, who is based on his own aunt.

Massage by Bi Feiyu centers on the lives of a group of blind masseurs.

A Sentence is Worth Thousands by Liu Zhenyun explores the theme of loneliness in a society sans religion, where man is in constant search of someone to talk to.

The five novels sold out both in bookstores and online bookshops, soon after the results were announced on Aug 20. Publishers of the five novels have confirmed that tens of thousands of copies have been printed to meet demand.

According to Zhao Ping, director of Contemporary Literature Editing Room, People's Literature Publishing House, Liu Xinglong's Sky Walker and Bi Feiyu's Massage were bestsellers even before the awards were announced. She says 50,000 additional copies printed for each sold out within a month of the announcement. Total sales for each book are put at more than 100,000.

Over the three decades since the prize was started, 38 novels have won the honor. Statistics from People's Literature Publishing House, which has published 17 of the 38 winners, shows that total sales volume of the 17 titles has exceeded 6.5 million.

Among them, the top three are White Deer Plain by Chen Zhongshi with 1.35 million copies sold, Red Poppies by A Lai with 0.96 million copies sold, and Hibiscus Town by Gu Hua with 0.86 million copies sold.