Mainlander Su Tong wins the Man Asian fiction prize with novel of 'immense charm'
Stephen McCarty, Books Editor
Mainland author Su Tong last night won the US$10,000 Man Asian Literary Prize for his novel The Boat to Redemption.
Su, 46, from Suzhou but now based in Nanjing , received the award at a dinner at The Peninsula hotel. Also in contention were India's Omair Ahmad and Siddharth Chowdhury; Nitasha Kaul, originally from India but living in London; and Eric Gamalinda of the Philippines.
The winning entry tells of how a former playboy is condemned to life on a river barge after his wife reports his excessive behaviour to the authorities, and develops into a tale of infatuation when an orphaned girl takes up residence on the boat.
In a statement, the judges said: 'The Boat to Redemption is a picaresque novel of immense charm. It is a story about obsessive love ... and a story about the revolutionary impulse. It is also a political fable with an edge 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 judges' panel comprised renowned Irish novelist Colm Toibin, Chinese-American author Gish Jen, and Indian novelist and essayist Pankaj Mishra.
Earlier, Toibin commented that reading the books had been 'a fascinating experience because of the range of styles and subjects. The range in the methods of exploring self and society, the interest in experimenting and making it new, made the time spent judging this prize rewarding and enlightening'.
Novelist and short-story writer Su, whose real name is Tong Zhonggui, is best known for his book Wives and Concubines, published in 1990 and filmed as Raise the Red Lantern by director Zhang Yimou . Consisting of three novellas, it was re-released with the same title as the film.
The Man Asian Literary Prize, now in its third year, attracted more than 150 entries, all Asian fictional works not previously published in English.