In his latest novel Pow!
, Nobel Prize-winning author Mo Yan draws on his childhood in rural China to recreate life in a rustic community during the 1990s. The novel is narrated entirely by Luo Xiatong, a young man seeking to enter a monastic order. As part of his rite of passage he must tell his life's story to an ancient monk who listens impassively throughout. He describes his experiences growing up in Slaughterhouse Village, which evolved during his youth from a small settlement of farmers into China's number one meat processing facility. Luo intersperses his history with comments and observations about the present as he gets distracted by a festival taking place outside the temple. As the narrative progresses, the story becomes more and more fantastical until the past and present seem to merge.
The text relies heavily on oral tradition, and the chronicle feels...
Beyond the Book
Mo Yan is the pen name of Guan Moye. Born 17 February 1955, Guan was the fourth child of farmers in Gaomi township in Shandong province in the northeast part of China. He says of his childhood:
"When I started forming memories, it was the most difficult time in China's history. Most people were starving at the time. People led a tough life. People starved to death all the time, even in my village. I think that children's memories from such times can be haunting.
I remember that there were many children in the village. When the sun...