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Garrulous by nature, Mr. Mo has said the name, meaning “don’t speak,” was intended to remind him to hold his tongue lest he get himself into trouble and to mask his identity since he began writing while serving in the army.

His breakthrough came with the novel “Red Sorghum,” published in 1987. Set in a small village, like much of his fiction, “Red Sorghum” is an earthy tale of love and peasant struggles set against the backdrop of the anti-Japanese war.

It was turned into a film that won the top prize at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1988, marked the directing debut of Zhang Yimou and boosted Mr. Mo’s popularity.