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 came out in winter, we all sat by a wall and bathed in the sun. Our clothes were all torn and ripped. We were barely covered. We also had bloated stomachs, because of lack of nutrients. Our legs and arms were thin, like those typical for starved children."
"I was quite naughty when I was in primary school and I was expelled in fifth grade. But I couldn't join the adult workforce after the expulsion because I didn't have much work ability. So I herded...