Winner of the 2009 Man Asian Literary Prize

Su Tong for The Boat to Redemption


Su Tong was born in 1963 in Suzhou and now lives in Beijing with his family. He is one of China’s most celebrated bestselling authors, shooting to international fame in 1993 when Zhang Yimou’s film of his novella Raise the Red Lantern was nominated for an Oscar. His first short story collection, Madwoman on the Bridge was published by Black Swan in 2008. Translator Howard Goldblatt is Research Professor at the University of Notre Dame. He is the recipient of two translation fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and has been awarded the Translation of the Year Prize from the American Literary Translators Association and the Man Asian Literary Prize. 


The panel of judges for the 2009 prize praised the winning novel:

The Boat to Redemption by Su Tong is a picaresque novel of immense charm. It is a story about obsessive love, the story of the relationship between a father and a son, and a story about the revolutionary impulse. It is also a political fable with an edge which is both comic and tragic, and a parable about the journeys we take in our lives, the distance between the boat of our desires and the dry land of our achievement.”

The distinguished panel of judges for the 2009 Prize includes Colm Tóibín, Gish Jen and Pankaj Mishra.   

Translated by Howard Goldblatt
In The Boat to Redemption disgraced Secretary Ku has been banished from the Party - it has been officially proved he does not have a fish-shaped birthmark on his bottom and is therefore not the son of a revolutionary martyr, but the issue of a river pirate and a prostitute. Mocked by the citizens of Milltown, Secretary Ku leaves the shore for a new life among the boat people on a fleet of industrial barges. Refusing to renounce his high status, he maintains a distance - with Dongliang, his teenage son - from the gossipy lowlifes who surround him. One day a feral little girl, Huixian, arrives looking for her mother, who has jumped to her death in the river. The boat people, and especially Dongliang, take her to their hearts. But Huixian sows conflict wherever she goes, and soon Dongliang is in the grip of an obsession for her. He takes on Life, Fate and the Party in the only way he knows. 

Praise for The Boat to Redemption

‘There is something soothing and insistent about the sound and feel of Su Tong’s writing… [More] twists, turns and tragedies hold the reader’s attention right to the end. The writing is superb, the word pictures of the river and its people memorable. And Yes, it could make great cinema’
—Sunday Express

‘Su Tong masterfully skates over the political implications of his story while exposing, not with a bludgeon (often the style of Chinese novels) but with scalpel-like precision, the social faultlines that are used by the Party to guarantee what it calls ‘stability’…I got a lot out of this story but kept in mind what Su Tong didn’t dare say out loud’

‘Su Tong paints with broad brush-strokes and the humour is rough, raw and irreverent, but there is genuine sympathy for the maverick whose impetuous behavious can only bring trouble in a prescriptive, claustrophobic world’
—Daily mail

‘Powerful and elegant …the world he so vividly depicts has the timelessness of a classical Chinese court painting’ —Independent

‘What I admire most is Su Tong’s style…His strokes are restrained but merciless. He is a true literary talent’
—Anchee Min

Twists, turns and tragedies hold the reader’s attention right to the end. The writing is superb, the word pictures of the river and its people memorable.
— Sunday Express

Doubleday (Hardback)
Black Swan (Paperback)
Transworld (Digital) 
published by Transworld (part of the Random House Group)


Buy The Boat to Redemption online
Paddyfield (Hong Kong)