China News Weekly reporter Ni Wei

Published in the 2023th issue of China News Weekly magazine on November 11, 27

On November 11, Mo Yan will return to his hometown. On this day, the Mo Yan Literature and Art Museum in Gaomi will be officially opened, showing the literary path of the Nobel laureate in literature, like a summary statement, but to be continued.

Now, Mo Yan is often seen on the campus of Beijing Normal University. He served as the director of the International Writing Center of Beijing Normal University, and he was very dedicated, and he invited almost all important writers in the contemporary literary world to be writers-in-residence. He pulled Yu Hua, Su Tong, Xi Chuan, Ouyang Jianghe and other old friends to personally guide students to write, and the "Young Writers Group of Beijing Normal University" was about to emerge.

When he is with students, he doesn't talk much about his old calendar, and always likes to ask them what new things they have been playing with lately. The student replied, playing Zelda. Mo Yan is curious, what is Zelda?

He himself has become an "Internet addiction", and his short videos are very slippery. In the program "I Read on the Island", the guests talked about a kind of local opera, he lowered his head and was very busy, and after a few seconds, he found a short video and showed it to everyone, and the skillful operation caused exclamations. And he and his book friend, Wang Zhen, president of the Beijing Shutong Culture and Art Research Association, hosted the public account "Two Bricks Ink News", which has launched more than 170 original works in a row in the past four years, and he has participated in the planning of each issue, and the replies of netizens have also been carefully read.

Mo Yan's identities are more and more, and his latest identity is a public welfare person. The "Mo Yan Concentric" project initiated by him is targeted to help children with congenital heart disease in the western region, and the first batch of 500 million yuan raised has funded nearly 200 children. He also did this very emotionally, and he never shirked activities related to public welfare.

But then again, where did the writer Mo Yan go?

In the 11 years since he won the Nobel Prize, Mo Yan's writing speed has slowed down significantly, and he has not published any works in the first five years. Subsequently, various genres of texts were published, including short stories, opera scripts, poetic novels, children's literature, and a large number of poems. And a new book with a lot of care has finally been published this year.

"Spend the rest of your life transforming from novelist to dramatist"

Mo Yan, who loves to tell stories, finally has a new story, and a new work published this year is called "Crocodile". It's just that the story is no longer told in the form of a novel, but a drama script. The reader can't help but guess that this is the novelist's act of playing with the ticket, and that he will eventually come back to write the novel; But for Mo Yan himself, this may herald a decisive turn – our Nobel Prize writer will transform into a playwright in the future.

This matter was sworn by Mo Yan in front of Shakespeare. Mo Yan is a loyal reader of Shakespeare, having visited Shakespeare's house in Stratford, England, three times, and in 2019, he vowed in front of a bronze statue of Shakespeare's house that he would spend the rest of his life transforming himself from novelist to dramatist. This incident was later turned into a joke by him: Yu Hua and Su Tong were also by his side at that time, Mo Yan said, so that he could distinguish himself from them, I am a playwright, and they write novels.

However, has it really turned to drama from there? In the face of "China News Weekly's doubtful verification", Mo Yan nodded: "I think I will at least put more than half of my energy into drama writing." ”

On closer examination, Mo Yan's enthusiasm for drama is actually not a whim. Looking back on his past creative experience, his wide range of genres and cross-border frequency are rare among contemporary writers. In addition to the novels that won him fame, he also wrote poetic novels, loved to write poems and lyrics, wrote opera scripts, and wrote opera scripts. Drama is not new, there are already two works, "Farewell My Concubine" and "Our Jing Ke", the latter has become the repertoire of the "theater of drama" Beijing People's Art Theater, with more than 100 performances - this is a very convincing recognition of the playwright's quality.

Even within the novel, his famous style of language is often overflowing beyond the narrative framework of conventional novels, and from time to time a linguistic carnival that deviates from the norm. For example, "Sandalwood Punishment", published in 2001, is inspired by the local opera Maoyan in his hometown, and the protagonist is set as a "cat-voiced" actor who walks the streets and alleys, and sings lyrics everywhere. He often said that "Sandalwood Punishment" is a dramatic novel. In the last part of "Frog", which was recognized by the Mao Award, he unexpectedly wrote a complete drama script.

Mo Yan, who is accustomed to drawing inspiration from classical literature, also sees the commonalities between classical literature and drama. Classical Chinese literature is not good at psychological description, but expresses characters through language and action, and relies on dialogue and action to promote the plot, which is the characteristic of drama. "The housekeeping skill of our classical novels is to draw in vain, and let readers feel the character and inner activities of the characters through dialogue and behavior, which is very challenging and is also the innate advantage of Chinese writers." Mo Yan told China News Weekly that his real interest was in drama, and he felt that it was natural for Chinese writers to write dramas.

The roots of theatrical blood can be traced back to the early days of his barren life. In the sixties and seventies in rural Shandong, only a few novels could be borrowed, and the opera in the fields greatly filled the imagination of this story-loving child. Later, when he picked up his pen and tried to write in the barracks, the first thing that came to mind was to write a script. In 1978, he was shocked by the drama "In a Silent Place", imitated and wrote a play called "Divorce", sent it to many publications, but was returned. When I read it a few years later, he burned the immature study with one fire.

The original idea always retains the glow of the fire, and occasionally adds firewood in the interval between the writing of the novel, forming another sequence of works parallel to the novel. He now intends to flesh out the sequence. Just before the Spring Festival in 2021, Zhang Heping, the old director of the Beijing People's Art Theater, and Ren Ming, the then director, came to him and said to him, you should write it for us, right? Mo Yan remembered that 10 years ago, he told Zhang Heping a story, a story about a corrupt official who fled abroad. So I picked up the pen, and the dialogue in the pen chased one line after another, and I finished writing "Crocodile" a year later.

"This image has not appeared before"

In an empty villa overseas in a foreign country, Mayor Shan Wuwu is about to celebrate his 55th birthday. For officials, this is an age when the spring breeze is proud, and the secretary is preparing a special birthday ceremony for him, but he is not interested, and even a little tired. Because a year ago, he fled here with his family and embezzled public funds, and now, the mayor is no longer the mayor, but a public enemy of the people who has been chased and run, and the secretary is no longer a secretary, just a sojourner with other plans.

The story unfolds in the large living room of the villa, and from 2005 to 2015, lovers, secretaries, businessmen, distant relatives and other characters from all walks of life rely on them to live without fear. He saw through their intentions, ridiculed them, and connived at them. He was concerned about a bridge he built when he was in office, and he also paid attention to the holding of the Beijing Olympic Games, and he missed his homeland and felt deeply guilty. And the real protagonist of the story is actually a crocodile, which is a birthday gift from a merchant, and in the first act it is a 30-centimeter-long pet, and by the last scene it has grown into a giant crocodile of nearly 4 meters. It has been lying in the fish tank in the living room of the villa, watching everything that has happened in the past ten years.

While conceiving this drama about corrupt officials, Mo Yan happened to learn that a neighbor boy liked to keep reptiles, and he went to visit his pets, including a small crocodile. Neighbors told him how big a crocodile can grow depends on the container. This special habit inspired Mo Yan, and so is people's desires, if they are not restrained, they will swell like crocodiles. He set the crocodile as a key image in the script and set off the climax of the plot at the end.

Reflection on the issue of anti-corruption has been going on for years. Many years ago, Mo Yan once wrote a preface and a recommendation for the books of several colleagues, friends, and fellow villagers, who were all upright and upward public officials at that time, and then gradually promoted to important positions, but they were suddenly dismissed, which made Mo Yan stunned. He was embarrassed that his preface and testimonials were printed on these books of "cursed by the masses", and why he had not discovered their true colors. Then he figured out that people change, they are not born corrupt officials, what is the problem? It is the out-of-control desire, the inner "crocodile".

Mo Yan is no stranger to the story of corrupt officials. After transferring from the army, he worked for 10 years in the Procuratorate Daily, the organ of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, interviewing many prosecutors and corrupt officials, and his main job was to write TV dramas about prosecutors. He had seen all kinds of corrupt officials, and those stories were stored in his head. At that time, he was dissatisfied with the face-painted portrayal of prosecutors and corrupt officials, and the clear opposition between good and evil, which could only make both good and evil lose their vivid humanity and become untrustworthy.

"Corrupt officials are not born bad, many corrupt officials are full of enthusiasm at the beginning and want to serve the people, and then under the effect of various joint forces, they slowly change. I wanted to write these things in their entirety in order to create a convincing image. Mo Yan told China News Weekly.

Mo Yan is very curious, what kind of mental state are those corrupt officials who fled abroad, and do they still love the motherland? Is there still the right to be patriotic? Is it still eligible to be patriotic?

"I follow the psychological and emotional logic of this character to deduce and prove that I think he is patriotic and has the right to be patriotic. Patriotism will make him repent, and repentance will make him more patriotic," he said, "so I don't think such an image of a corrupt official has ever appeared on stage or in film and television works in the past." ”

It's a question that is not easy to explain, pointing to real human nature but challenging a certain social mood. Mo Yan, who raised this question, still has the same courage as Mo Yan, who analyzed the pain caused by the policy in "Frog", and shook the literary world with the boldness of "Breast and Fat Buttocks".

At the end of the play, the crocodile jumps out of the fish tank, and Shan Wuyi realizes that this crocodile can understand human speech. Everything for ten years has happened right under the nose of this crocodile. Before Shan Wuyi walked towards the end of his life, the crocodile opened his mouth and gave Shan Wuyi an appropriate sentence: "I have done a lot of evil but my conscience is not clear." Afraid of crime and fleeing, but loving the motherland. likes women but is eventually abandoned by women. Ambitious but unaccomplished. Indulging desires leads to the destruction of families. The crocodiles are eventually buried in the belly of the crocodile. ”

Literature "outside of literature".

After the publication of "Crocodile", Mo Yan gave himself a long vacation. This summer, he and Wang Zhen traveled to Kenya, Britain and other places for more than a month, seeing zebras, bison, lions, elephants, giraffes in the African savannah... Chase the sunset and the rising sun. In the Masai Mara steppe, seeing the giant crocodile in the river, he "did the crocodile play \ wrote crocodile poems again", and wrote short poems: "Like rotten wood \ like clay sculpture \ like bronze casting \ My crocodile lying on the river beach \ The golden scales reflect in the water \ The smooth lines turn into musical notes \ The birds are listening." ”

In Africa, he was touched by an animal. Facing the elephants above the wasteland, he felt that wordless broadness and composure. "I'm ashamed to face the beast... Kindness and generosity \ will be more friendly \ on land for elephants \ whales in the sea. He wrote.

It was an extraordinary trip. Over the past few decades, his travels have been almost all about literature, with a chair at each end waiting for him to talk about literature. And this time, out of pure interest in nature, he no longer travels for literature. Carrying a camera like a cannon barrel, he followed the migration of animals on the prairie, taking pictures, recording videos, composing poems, writing calligraphy, and then posting them on his official account "Two Bricks and Ink News".

At first glance, it looks like a retired old man's self-satisfied place, recording the trajectory of traveling in the mountains and rivers, dancing and writing, but he himself regards the content of the official account as a kind of creation. In the weekly push, he writes poems, fills in words, and writes, and the urge to tell stories when he was young is endless, and as he grows older, he refines it into today's short que, quatrains, and long poems, and he has never been cut off from words.

"Even a lot of what you see on your phone today is a kind of literature, but it's relatively short. No matter how good a drama is, there must be a script, and no matter how good the joke is, it is also composed of language, so literature is ubiquitous, and the importance of literature has not diminished. After swiping his mobile phone for a few years, Mo Yan had this feeling, "As long as there is emotion, it needs to be expressed, there will be literature, there is no need to be so pessimistic." In this sense, those of us who write literature should not be depressed, but we should be confident and adapt to the current environment, and I believe that there will always be readers who will come back and pick up a book to read. ”

His interest in calligraphy not only gave birth to the official account, but also gave birth to another new business of his.

In the Spring Festival of 2022, he and Wang Zhen wrote the word "Fu" together, and wrote almost 150 in one go. On a whim, he could auction off some "Fu" characters and donate them to charities to help children with congenital heart disease in the western region. His concern for children with congenital heart disease began many years ago, when he donated 100 million yuan to help more than 60 children. The auction of the word "Fu" was finally paid by a company for 500 million yuan, and promised to continue to donate 5 million yuan per year for the next five years, with a total of more than 300 million yuan.

"When I held the child's cold little feet, I really felt, how to say, it was the softest moment in my heart. Let you feel that a weak life can grow slowly with your help. Speaking of this, Mo Yan's usually passionate tone suddenly softened.

During the Lantern Festival in 2022, he went to the hospital to visit a child who had received funding to come for surgery, and saw a one-year-old child who was devastated by the disease, very weak, like a "little poor bag". The child was barefoot, and he couldn't help but lean over and hold the child's little feet. In the days that followed, he told the people around him countless times about the touch that that moment brought him.

In September this year, he participated in a "Walking with Mo Yan" public welfare live broadcast, and saw the child again in the video, who had recovered his health, and called him "grandpa" on this side of the screen. "'Grandpa, grandpa', two grandpa calls make me happy... I really feel that doing anything for these children is worth it. ”

Like an ordinary sixty-year-old grandfather, when he talks about these moments, Mo Yan's face is full of happiness and kindness. The writer is indeed no longer young, he uses "Qi Suo" as the calligraphy to write, the old Suo of Qi country. The pen will be blunted, the tone will be stagnant, 40 years have passed, and the young writer who is as sharp as a knife has frost and snow on his temples in the blink of an eye. But inside and outside the book, the theme has never deviated, "Literature is to write about people, emotions, and life."

China News Weekly, Issue 2023, 44

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