Mo Yan was born in Shandong Province in 1955. He was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature.

NYR DAILY

In the People’s Liberation Army

PLA soldiers on a Yuan Dynasty statue of a Maitraya, West Lake near Hangzhou, China, 1978

Getting into the People’s Liberation Army was hard, but not as hard as getting into college. So, starting in 1973, I sent in my application and took a physical exam at the commune every year, and every year I was rejected. But then, in February 1976, with the help of some important people, my persistence paid off—I received my enlistment notice. Soon after that, on a cold, snowy day, I walked some fifteen miles to the county town. There I put on an army uniform and climbed into the back of a military truck for the trip to Huang County, where I moved into the famous “Ding Family Compound” barracks and began basic training.