complexity of those in the writings of William Faulkner and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, at the same time finding a departure point in old Chinese literature and in oral tradition," the Swedish Academy said.
Yan, whose real name is Guan Moye and was born in 1955, "with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary," the jury said. Mo Yan has published novels, short stories and essays on various topics, and despite his social criticism is seen in his homeland as one of the foremost contemporary authors, the Nobel committee noted.
In his writing Mo Yan draws on his youthful experiences and on settings in the province of his birth. Last year, the literature prize went to Swedish poet Tomas Transtroemer.
The literature prize is the fourth and one of the most watched announcements this Nobel season, following the prizes for medicine, physics and chemistry earlier this week.
The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday, with the field of possible winners wide open, followed by the Economics Prize on Monday, wrapping up the Nobel season.
As tradition dictates, the laureates will receive their prizes at formal ceremonies in Stockholm and Oslo on December 10, the anniversary of the death of prize creator Alfred Nobel in 1896.
Because of the economic crisis, the Nobel Foundation has slashed the prize sum to eight million Swedish kronor ($1.2 million, 930,000 euros) per award, down from the 10 million kronor awarded since 2001.
2012 A glance at the Nobel Prize for literature
Nobel Prize Winners
Chinese writer Mo Yan wins Nobel literature prize
STOCKHOLM (AP) --
Chinese writer Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize in literature on Thursday, a cause of pride for a government that had disowned the only previous Chinese winner of the award, an exiled critic.
National television broke into its newscast to announce the award - exceptional for the tightly scripted broadcast that usually focuses on the doings of Chinese leaders.
The Swedish Academy, which selects the winners of the prestigious award, praised Mo's "hallucinatory realism" saying it "merges folk tales, history and the contemporary."
Peter Englund, the academy's permanent secretary, said the academy had contacted Mo, 57,before the announcement.
"He said he was overjoyed and scared," Englund said.
Among the works highlighted by the Nobel judges were "Red Sorghum, (1993), "The Garlic Ballads" (1995), "Big Breasts & Wide Hips (2004).
"He's written 11 novels and let's say a hundred short stories," Englund said. "If you want to start off to get a sense of how he is writing and also get a sense of the moral core in what he is writing I would recommend `The Garlic Ballads.'"
The award was almost certain to be welcomed in China, unlike when jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, which infuriated China. That was the last time a Chinese national won a Nobel Prize.
The communist leadership also disowned the Nobel when Gao Xingjian won the literature award in 2000 for his absurdist dramas and inventive fiction. Gao's works are laced with criticisms of China's communist government and have been banned in China.
Born Guan Moye in 1955 to a farming family in eastern Shandong province, Mo chose his penname while writing his first novel. Garrulous by nature, Mo has said the name, meaning "don't speak," was intended to remind him to hold his tongue lest he get himself into trouble and to mask his identity since he began writing while serving in the army.
His breakthrough came with novel `Red Sorghum' published in 1987. Set in a small village, like much of his fiction, `Red Sorghum' is an earthy tale of love and peasant struggles set against the backdrop of the anti-Japanese war. It was turned into a film that won the top prize at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1988, marked the directing debut of Zhang Yimou and boosted Mo's popularity.
Mo writes of visceral pleasures and existential quandaries and tends to create vivid, mouthy characters. While his early work stuck to a straight-forward narrative structure enlivened by vivid descriptions and raunchy humor, Mo has become more experimental, toying with different narrators and embracing a free-wheeling style often described as `Chinese magical realism.'
European authors had won four of the past five awards, with last year's prize going to Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer. As with the other Nobel Prizes, the prize is worth 8 million kronor, or about $1.2 million.
Decoded: Chinese author Mo Yan, 57
Red Sorghum; The Garlic Ballads; Big Breasts & Wide Hips; Frog.
Mo writes of visceral pleasures and existential quandaries, creating vivid characters. His early work stuck to a straightforward narrative structure enlivened by vivid descriptions and raunchy humor. In recent years, Mo has become more experimental, toying with different narrators and embracing a freewheeling style often described as "Chinese magical realism."