BEIJING - Mo Yan unquestionably deserves applause for being the first Chinese national to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, but does that alone make his works suitable reading for middle school kids?
The topic is being debated by Chinese after publishers decided to include Mo's novella "A Transparent Carrot" in a reading textbook for high schoolers after the Swedish Academy announced his Nobel win.
Chinese middle school textbooks typically select only indisputably classic and adolescent-friendly reading material. Authors appearing most often include seventh-century poet Li Bai, inspiring modern writer Lu Xun and contemporary playwrite Lao She.
The textbook, containing 40 novellas from Chinese and foreign authors, is expected to hit schools across the country by the coming spring semester, according to the Language and Culture Press, one of the country's leading school textbook publishers.
Zhang Xiafang, a senior staff member with the Press, said though the Nobel Prize was a key factor, the publisher had long been considering including Mo's works in the textbook.
"It is coincidence rather than a rash decision to cash in on the Nobel win," Zhang said. "On the other hand, we have included Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez's works; why shouldn't students read the works of a Chinese Nobel laureate?"
Zhang was trying to deflate criticism, not least from influential education expert and columnist Xiong Bingqi who called the inclusion of Mo's novella a "utilitarian" and "thoughtless" decision.
"If Mo's works have educational value and are suitable for high school students, they should be included in the curriculum no matter if he wins the Nobel or not," Qiong wrote in his blog on the popular portal Sina.com. "Why had the publishers not included Mo's works until now, after he won the Nobel?" .
Zhang replied that the timing of including Mo's works could not be better because at the moment many young people are eager to read his fiction.
Indeed, after Mo's Nobel win was announced on October 11, his books sold out within several hours in online and high street bookstores across China.