New Noble Laureate Mo Yan’s books are no doubt enjoying a sudden spurt in popularity and sales but a new decision by the government will ensure that his work is now read compulsorily by millions of young Chinese; a short novel he wrote 27 years ago has been included as a text book for nearly 25 million high school students as part of their syllabus.
The Language of Culture Press, affiliated to the Ministry of Education, has announced Mo’s short novel, A Transparent Carrot, written in 1985, has been included in the syllabus for senior students who decide to take specific Chinese courses, state media said.
By its decision, the press, which publishes textbooks and teaching material for schools, places the new Nobel winner in the same league as Lao She, Lu Xun and a number of Chinese and foreign writers whose works appear in the textbooks read by high school students across China. .
A Transparent Carrot, published in 1985, like some of his other novels, depicts the lives and inner worlds of ordinary Chinese people in the countryside. The novella, which contains stylistic features that would eventually become characteristic of Mo's writing, quickly gained renown for its sharp descriptions that verge on the fantastical.
Zhang Xiafang, a staff member of the high school educational research group of the Press, said the Nobel Prize certainly helped editors to decide to pick Mo's work for inclusion in the textbook.
“The prize is a really big deal in Chinese literary circles,” Zhang was quoted as saying by Beijing Times. “This is a historic event. So letting our students know about his work is necessary.”
But not everybody has welcomed the decision. Their argument: why is Mo’s work only being included after he won the Noble?
“Mo's novella was published many, many years ago,” Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, a non-governmental research organization, was quoted as saying by the China Daily. "Why are these editors putting his work into textbooks only after he received the Nobel Prize?
"The Nobel Prize should not be the only criterion used to measure the educational value of teaching materials, but this seems to be how things are done now.”