Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hear them here first: Man Asian Literary Prize, 2009

So. It's November again, and another Man Asian Literary Prize. Well, it's only the third so far, but already becomming a well-established event. To recap: the prize is for a work by an 'Asian' writer (difficult to determine, but roughly a resident or national of an Asian country) with a work not yet published in English.

The idea of the prize is to promote Asian writing around the world, and the short-list this year are a fairly mixed bag in terms of experience and recognition. Su Tong is an already established writer, with an oscar winning film (Raise the Red Lantern) adapted from one of his early novellas. Other literary veterans include US/Philipino author, Eric Gamalinda and Indian publisher and author, Siddharth Chowdhury. The young bloods are Nitasha Kaul, whose phd thesis intruiginly combined economics and philisophy; and Omair Ahmad, a journalist/analyst with an expertise in Kashmir.

Last night, we got to hear them all talking about and reading from their work. The last two prizes it seemed clear after the reading which novel would win, but can't say I can tell this one. They all had strengths, and with a new set of judges (Colm Toibin, Gish Jen, and Pankaj Mishra) who knows which they'll go for.

Other men than me were confident Su Tong is going to win, but who knows.

I had the pleasure and honour of reading Su Tong's piece in English. Back in the 90s, Su Tong was the only Chinese novelist who work varied from the Wild Swan's style misery books and I think he's one of the really interesting voices to come out of China so if you haven't had the chance to read him yet, put him on your list.

Dinner, was at Yung Kee, where it was interesting to see that once you put a couple of glasses of wine into them, the shyest writers on stage became quite eloquent.

Prize announced tonight.

Su Tong, Eric Gamalinda, Siddharth Chowdhury, Nitasha Kaul, last year's winner Miguel Syjuco, Omair Ahmad and myself.
Thanks alot to Martin Merz for sending me this pic.

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