Chinese author Mo Yan was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature Thursday. The committee cited Yan, a pseudonym for Guan Moye, as an author "who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary."

According to his Nobel biography, Yan was born to farmers in northeastern China in 1955. He left school at age 12 to work alongside his parents in the fields before joining the People's Liberation Army in 1976.  His first short story was published in a literary journal in 1981, followed by his breakthrough novella, Touming de hong luobo in 1986.

His first novel, Red Sorghum, was translated into English by Howard Goldblatt in 1993. In our review, Kirkus called Yan "a powerful new voice on the brutal unrest of rural China in the late 20's and 30's." The Garlic Ballads (1995) and The Republic of Wine (2000) came next, lauded highly for their unveiled criticism of contemporary Chinese society.

Yan is the second Chinese author to win a Nobel Prize in Literature, the first being Gao Xingjian in 2000.

The Noble committee wrote of Yan and his body of work:

Through a mixture of fantasy and reality, historical and societal perspectives, Mo Yan has created a world reminiscent in its complexity of those in the writings of William Faulkner and Gabriel García Márquez, at the same time finding a departure point in old Chinese literature and in oral tradition.

Japanese author Haruki Murakami had been highly favored to take this year's Nobel. The last American author to win was Toni Morrison in 1993.  

The prize is worth 8 million Swedish Kroner, roughly $1.2 million.  

Photo: © J. Kolfhaus, Gymn. Marientha, Creative Commons Attr. Share Alike 3.0