Monday, October 15, 2012
Will The Lie Become The Truth?
His books, once obscure, are set to be reprinted for the curious who will buy at least one to find out what all that buzz is about.
So, who gets a share of the royalties? Who's the literary agent?
It should be a simple matter. The publisher of the books knows who is due the checks.
Andrew Wylie's elite agency says it's them what gets the money. They've been negotiating here and there among various publishers. They list Mo Yan as one of their clients, so doesn't that make it so?
Except that Sandra Djikstra says she is the agent of record. She's the one who represented the author when he was a nobody, toiling away and standing solidly on the side of the Communist regime.
If not for her efforts, no one in the Western world would know Mo Yan. Which means, of course, that he'd be sitting in his room in China rather than basking in the glory of the shining Nobel.
Should another copy of Red Sorghum be sold, Viking will cut a check for Ms. Djikstra's agency. As far as they know, she is the author's representative.
But there's the Wylie Agency, contacting publishers and doing what a literary agency is supposed to do for clients.
Is the powerhouse agency being less than honest? Do they plan to negotiate a contract, bring it to the author (or Hu Jintao who runs the country and everyone in it) and make their lie into a truth?
Ms. Djikstra may become victim to a "what have you done for me lately" scenario. Even though she pushed the author's works from the beginning, now that he's in the big time, he is considered ripe for plucking by an agency so exclusive they can poach clients with impunity.
The lie that Wylie is spreading may very well become the truth when he snags a lucrative deal, better than what Ms. Djikstra has negotiated to date, and she'll be erasing Mo Yan from her client list.
She was there for him back in the day, when he was obscure, and now that he's famous, she's about to lose him. And there's not much she can do, beyond topping whatever deal Wylie can do.
Ethically, one doesn't leave an agent without prior warning, but ethics don't exist in Communist China.
A country that wouldn't think twice about poisoning its children with tainted milk surely isn't concerned with screwing over a literary agent.