Tuesday January 15, 2013
The shortlist for the Man Asian Literary Prize is announced.
INDIAN author Jeet Thayil and Malaysian author Tan Twan Eng, who last clashed on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize, are going head to head again after both authors made the final cut for the Man Asian Literary Prize; the shortlist of five novels was released on Wednesday.
Worth US$30,000 (RM90,864), the award goes to the best novel by an Asian writer, either written in English or translated into English, released in 2012.
Thayil and Tan lost the Booker in October 2012 to British author Hilary Mantel, who won for a record-breaking second time for Bring Up The Bodies, her second historical fiction novel in a trilogy about Tudor statesman Thomas Cromwell.
For this prize, the men face stiff competition from Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, selected for his novel Silent House, a “dark family saga set in a decrepit mansion at a Turkish seaside resort, on the eve of a military coup”, according to journalist Maya Jaggi, chair of judges for the Man Asian literary prize.
This early work from Pamuk made the list despite being first published nearly three decades ago because it appeared in English for the first time in 2012. “This book written 30 years ago still spoke to us and spoke to some very present issues to do with the way individuals experience the drive for modernity and rapid urbanisation,” Jaggi said at a press conference in Hong Kong via video link from London.
Thayil is shortlisted for his novel Narcopolis, set in the opium dens of old Bombay, and Tan for The Garden Of Evening Mists, which takes place during the aftermath of WWII and the Japanese occupation of Malaya.
The shortlist of five is rounded out by Japanese writer Hiromi Kawakami’s The Briefcase, in which the “ambiguous relationship between an office worker nearing 40 and her former literature teacher, a retired widower, is traced with astonishing delicacy and humour”, said Jaggi, and Between Clay And Dust by Pakistani author Musharraf Ali Farooqi, the story – and tragedy – of a champion wrestler.
“Farooqi’s tale is more moving for the spareness and restraint with which it is told,” said Jaggi, who is joined on the judging panel by award winning Vietnamese-American novelist Monique Truong and Indian writer Vikram Chandra.
She added that Thayil, Tan and Farooqi embodied “Asian writers of a new generation turning to the past in a different way – all younger writers who are looking not simply at the history of their own nations but regional history.”
Executive director of the award, Prof David Parker added that, “Several of these writers have been celebrated in their own countries and recognised internationally, but never before have we viewed them collectively as Asian writers.
“The Man Asian literary prize is the only award that places Asian authors from across the whole breadth of the region side by side and gives readers a fresh perspective on the best fiction from our part (Asian) of the world.”
The winner will be announced on March 14, with the winning translator, if there is one, to receive US$5,000 (RM15,131). Last year, the award was won by South Korean writer Kyung-sook Shin’s Please Look After Mom, which has now sold two million copies worldwide.
Once this year’s winner is announced, the prize’s current sponsor, Britain-based international consultancy Man Group, will step aside (though it will continue to sponsor the Booker Prize). Spokesperson Harrison Kelly said the search for a new sponsor for the award was ongoing, but that the response has been “overwhelmingly positive”.
“Since October we have been contacted by several Asian-based and global corporations about sponsoring the prize,” said Kelly. “In fact we are currently in encouraging talks with potential partners. Of course these things take time and we are yet to finalise anything, but we are thrilled that so many people value the prize as much as we do and see sponsoring us as a unique opportunity to create a stronger presence throughout Asia.” – Agencies