Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Su Tong Scoops the Prize

Which might not suprise many: he was the odd one out in the list, being a well-established author in a list of mainly unpublished young voices. In that way, the whole ceremony lacked some of the fairy-tale quality last year, when one of those young-bloods, Miguel Syjuco from the Phillipines, beat off another established Chinese author (Yu Hua).

I haven't read the books this year, but I have no doubt that the judges have picked a worthy winner. He is the one Chinese author I can think of who was writing interesting and provoking material about China way back in the '90s. And he's been doing it ever since, with less attention than many other Chinese authors. Colm Toibin made the most beautiful speak, as chairman of the judges, that I have ever heard - and throughout the room there was a palpable snap - as from a daydream - when he sat down again.

When prizes insist on inviting all the shortlisted authors, staging a sit-down meal, and adding a certain ceremony to the whole occasion it's tough on the four authors who go home disappointed. You're not hungry, you don;t want to talk or make conversation, and you're torn between hoping and smothering those hopes. And then, having been feted, you suddenly find yourself, less the star, than the guest at someone else's party. Which is the wrong way to feel, of course.

To be shortlisted is really the honour, and for the unpublished young authors, who left disappointed that night, they might well find that being shortlisted is more of a prize than winning is for Su Tong.

No comments: