Five novels showcasing the diversity and depth of writing from Istanbul to Tokyo were announced today as the shortlist for the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize was revealed, listing distinctive and celebrated writers for the first time in a region-wide context.
The shortlist, which includes writers from five different countries, champions a debut novelist alongside a Nobel laureate, translated work as well as original writing in English, and includes smaller regional publishers as well as larger international houses.
The five shortlisted novels, selected from a longlist of 15, are:
Award winning literary critic and journalist Dr. Maya Jaggi is chair of the 2012 judging panel. Joining Jaggi as Prize judges for 2012 are award winning Vietnamese-American novelist Monique Truong and novelist Vikram Chandra, most notably winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. The Prize judges’ comments on each of the individual books can be found below.
Professor David Parker, Executive Director of the Asian Literary Prize, the organising body of the award, said, “Several of these writers have been celebrated in their own countries and recognized 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 of the world. Our Prize judges have once again chosen a remarkable selection of books, and I look forward to welcoming all our shortlisted writers to Hong Kong in just a few weeks’ time.”
The winner, who will receive USD 30,000, will be announced on March 14th 2013 at a black tie Prize Dinner in Hong Kong, the home of the Prize. The translator, if any, will receive USD 5,000.
Last year’s winner, Please Look After Mom by South Korean writer Kyung-sook Shin has gone on to sell over 2m copies worldwide. Previous winners of the Prize include Bi Feiyu (2010), Su Tong (2009), Miguel Syjuco (2008) and Jiang Rong (2007).
Following the announcement of the 2012 winner in March 2013, the current sponsor Man Group will relinquish its title sponsorship. As of April 2013 a new title sponsor will sponsor the Asian Literary Prize. Negotiations with interested sponsors are currently ongoing, with an announcement to be made late April 2013.
THE 2012 SHORTLISTED BOOKS
Dr. Maya Jaggi said, “Set in a decaying inner city after the partition of India, Between Clay and Dust is an elegiac but unromanticised evocation of a dying culture. The tragedy of a champion wrestler, challenged by his younger brother and befriended by an ageing courtesan, has a mythic resonance, as the characters’ ethical codes collide with the values of a new world. Farooqi’s tale is more moving for the spareness and restraint with which it is told.”
Musharraf Ali Farooqi was born in 1968 in Hyderabad, Pakistan. His previous novel, The Story of a Widow (2009), was shortlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. He is also the highly acclaimed translator of Urdu classics Hoshruba (2009) and The Adventures of Amir Hamza (2007), contemporary Urdu poet Afzal Ahmed Syed’s selected poetry Rococo and Other Worlds (2010) and Urdu writer Syed Muhammad Ashraf’s novel The Beast (2010).
Dr. Maya Jaggi said, “The ambiguous relationship between an office worker nearing 40 and her former literature teacher, a retired widower, is traced with astonishing delicacy and humour in a novel in which painterly gestures evoke passing time through the changing seasons. From their chance meeting in a bar, the solitary drinkers, 30 years apart in age, discover a common language in food and its rituals, until the unspoken catches them and the reader by stealth.”
Hiromi Kawakami was born in Tokyo and graduated from Ochanomizu Women’s College in 1980. Her first book, a collection of short stories entitled God (Kamisama) was published in 1994. She was awarded the Akutagawa Prize for Tread On A Snake, the Itō Sei Literature Prize and the Woman Writer’s Prize for Oboreru and won the Tanizaki Prize for her novel The Teacher’s Briefcase.
Dr. Maya Jaggi said, “Centred on a decrepit mansion at a Turkish seaside resort, on the eve of a military coup, this dark family saga is a brilliant comic satire on a nation’s drive for modernity, which hints at the dangerous social rifts such a process creates. Interior monologues with great technical virtuosity expose the fantasies and neuroses of characters ranging from a devout widow to westernised rich kids and an ultra-nationalist teenager. But parody is balanced by pathos in a novel that, 30 years after its original publication, still casts light on its subject.”
Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006. His novel My Name Is Red won the 2003 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His work has been translated into more than sixty languages. Orhan Pamuk’s second novel, Silent House, has never before been published in English.
Dr. Maya Jaggi said, “With its heart in the traumatic aftermath of the Japanese occupation of Malaya, this far-ranging and intricately layered novel unearths beauty and atrocity within buried histories. A retired Straits Chinese judge in Malaysia, the sole survivor of a Japanese prison camp, recalls her fraught apprenticeship, during the insurgency against British rule, to a Japanese landscape artist who was once gardener to the Emperor. In her feat of memory, the novel becomes a profound exploration of personal and national honour; guilt and complicity; what it means to atone; and what it takes to forgive.”
Tan Twan Eng was born in 1972 in Penang, but lived in various places in Malaysia as a child. He studied law at the University of London and later worked as lawyer in one of Kuala Lumpur’s most reputable law firms. He also has a first-dan ranking in aikido and is a strong proponent for the conservation of heritage buildings. His first novel, The Gift of Rain, was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2007, The Garden of Evening Mists was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2012.
Dr. Maya Jaggi said, “The poet Jeet Thayil’s remarkable fictional debut begins with a single hallucinatory sentence stretching over six-and-a-half pages, viewing the world through an opium haze. In Narcopolis, set in an Old Bombay underworld of gangsters and eunuchs, pimps and pushers, with an interlude following the pipe back to Mao’s China, the opium den is revealed as a microcosm of a city in transformation, where opium is ceding ground to heroin, and the pipe itself is a teller of tales. This is a stylistic tour de force with great originality.”
Jeet Thayil was born in Kerala, India in June 1959 and educated in Hong Kong, New York and Bombay. He is a performance poet, songwriter and guitarist, and has published four collections of poetry. He is the editor of The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets (2008). Narcopolis was shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.