Novelists are forever trying to distance themselves from politics, but the novel itself closes in on politics. Novelists are so concerned with "man's fate" that they tend to lose sight of their own fate. Therein lies their tragedy.
I don't think that it invariably requires a Nobel Prize in Literature to sell translated books in the states, but I do know Mo Yan won one in 2012. The books I was looking at in the library appeared worn, to an extent, so I'm guessing that they were on the shelf before that.
As you may know, Mo Yan is a pen name that means "don't speak," and if you follow the link to Wikipedia.org from his name above, you'll see that there was some controversy over his win in light of both his ties to Chinese authorities as well as his Swedish translator's connection to the Nobel committee. I haven't read his writing.