Mo Yan's literary works mostly belong to the magic realism genre. The 57-year-old was born in the town of Gaomi that falls in China's Shandong province. His parents were farmers.
During the Cultural Revolution, Guan Moye dropped out of school to take up work in an oil factory. At the age of 20, he was recruited by the People's Liberation Army.
Guan Moye's first short story came out in 1981. He chose the pen name Mo Yan (meaning "don't speak" in Chinese) for that work.
Ironically, some of Mo Yan's novels wherein one can find "sharp criticism of contemporary Chinese society" were deemed by the authorities to be "subversive".
In 1987, his most famous novel Red Sorghum was published in China. This and another novel inspired Chinese director Zhang Yimou to make a film of the same name. It was widely acclaimed and garnered several prestigious awards including the 'Golden Bear' at the 1988 Berlin International Film Festival.
Besides Red Sorghum that was only published in English in 1993, The Garlic Ballads (1995), Big Breasts and Wide Hips (1996) and Life and Death are Wearing Me Out (2006) are probably Mo Yan's best known works.
Incidentally, Life and Death are Wearing Me Out was written in just 43 days. Fans of Mo Yan are now waiting eagerly for his latest novel Sandalwood Death that will be published in 2013.
The citation for the Nobel Prize described Mo Yan as a writer "who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary."
The citation added: "Through a mixture of fantasy and reality, historical and social 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 oral tradition."