Winner of 2007 Man Asian Literary Prize
Jiang Rong for Wolf Totem
Li Bo (Changjiang Publishing Group) and Jo Lusby (Penguin China) accepting awards on behalf of Jiang Rong
Jiang Rong was born in Jiangsu in 1946, and graduated from the middle school attached to China Art College in 1966. In 1967, Jiang joined the first wave of intellectuals who moved to the countryside as volunteers, living with nomadic communities on the Chinese border of Inner and Outer Mongolia for 11 years. Following his return to Beijing in 1978, Jiang embarked on postgraduate studies in political science at the renowned Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and assumed an academic position at a Beijing university. Now retired, he lives in Beijing, with his wife. Wolf Totem is a fictional account of life in the 1970s that draws on Jiang’s personal experience of the grasslands of China’s border region.
Adrienne Clarkson, Chair of the judges for the inaugural prize praised
“A panoramic novel of life on the Mongolian grasslands during the Cultural Revolution, this masterly work is also a passionate argument about the complex interrelationship between nomads and settlers, animals and human beings, nature and culture. The slowly developing narrative is rendered in vivid detail and has a powerful cumulative effect. A book like no other. Memorable.”
The distinguished panel of judges for the 2007 Prize includes Adrienne Clarkson (Chair), Andre Aciman and Nicholas Jose.
Translated by Howard Goldblatt
Wolf Totem is set in the final 1960s heyday for the people of the Inner Mongolian grasslands—a time when an age-old balance based on culture and tradition was maintained between the nomads, their livestock, and the wild wolves who roamed the plains. Beijing intellectual Chen Zhen volunteers to live in a remote nomadic settlement on the border of Inner and Outer Mongolia. There, he discovers life of apparent idyllic simplicity based on an eternal struggle between the wolves and the humans in their fight to survive. Chen learns about the rich spiritual relationship, and respect that only equals can feel, that exists between these adversaries. After many years of solitude, his peace of mind is shattered with the arrival of his kinfolk sent from the cities to bring modernity and productivity to the remote grasslands. Once the careful balance between the wolves and humans is disrupted, however, culture and tradition is damaged, and the environment suffers.
“The Call of the Wild meets Dersu Uzala in the wilds of Inner Mongolia in this sweeping debut novel by retired Chinese academician Jiang. In China, it has emerged as a zeitgeist novel, outselling any other in Chinese short of Mao’s little red book…A treasure.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“An intellectual adventure story… . Five hundred bloody and instructive pages later, you just want to stand up and howl.”
-Alan Cheuse, San Francisco Chronicle
“Electrifying… . The power of Jiang’s prose (and of Howard Goldblatt’s excellent translation) is evident… . This semi-autographical novel is a literary triumph.”
-National Geographic Traveler (Book of the Month)
Three outstanding international judges contributed their time and expertise to selecting the shortlisted works and the winner from among the longlist. The judges were (in alphabetical order):
Andre Aciman is the author of Out of Egypt: A Memoir, False Papers: Essays on Exile and Memory, and the co-author and editor of The Proust Project and of Letters of Transit. He was born in Alexandria and lived in Egypt, Italy, and France. He received a Ph. D. from Harvard, has taught at Princeton and Bard College and is now Chair of Comparative Literature at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship as well as a fellowship from The New York Public Library’s Center for Scholars and Writers. He has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books and Commentary. His new novel Call Me by Your Name is now published.
He was a judge for the National Book Award in 2001.
Born in Hong Kong in 1939, Adrienne Clarkson came to Canada as a refugee during the War in 1942. A leading figure in Canada’s cultural life, Madame Clarkson had a rich and distinguished career in broadcasting, journalism, the arts and the public service. During her career Madame Clarkson received numerous prestigious awards both in Canada and abroad in recognition for her outstanding contribution in professional and charitable endeavours. Madame Clarkson was Governor General of Canada from 1999 to 2005.
Madame Clarkson is a judge of the 2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Her memoirs will be published in the Autumn of 2006.
From 1986 to 1990, Nicholas Jose worked in Shanghai and Beijing where he was Cultural Counsellor at the Australian Embassy from 1987-1990. From 2002 to 2005, he was President of Sydney PEN and currently holds the Chair of Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide.
His books include Original Face, Black Sheep: Journey to Borroloola, The Red Thread, The Custodians, The Rose Crossing, Avenue of Eternal Peace, Paper Nautilus, Rowena’s Field, The Possession of Amber,Feathers or Lead and Chinese Whispers, Cultural Essays. His work has appeared in HEAT, London Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement, Far Eastern Economic Review, Daedalus, PEN International, Meanjin, Australian Book Review, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. He co-translatedThe Finish Line by Sang Ye and The Ape Herd by Mang Ke.