The shortlist for the US$30,000 Man Asian Literary Prize – billed as Asia’s most prestigious book award – was announced in Hong Kong on Wednesday.
It’s the last time the prize will be awarded under that name, as the Man Group is ending its sponsorship.
The five contenders are:
Between Clay and Dust by Musharraf Ali Farooqi of Pakistan. Set in an unnamed Pakistani city after the partition of India, the prize judges say it has “mythic resonance” in following a former champion wrestler and his younger brother.
Born in 1968 in Hyderabad, Farooqi is an author, novelist and translator who divides his time between Toronto and Karachi and has published both adult and children’s fiction.
The Briefcase by Hiromi Kawakami of Japan, translated by Allison Markin Powell. It traces the relationship between an office worker and her former litreature teacher. Judges have praised it for its “delicacy and humour in a novel in which painterly gestures evoke passing time through the changing seasons”.
Born in Tokyo in 1958, Kawakami is regarded as one of Japan’s leading novelists.
Silent House by Orhan Pamuk of Turkey, translated by Robert Finn. Set around a decrepit mansion at a Turkish seaside resort, on the eve of a military coup, the panel described it as a “dark family saga” and “a brilliant comic satire on a nation’s drive for modernity”.
Born in 1952 in Istanbul, Pamuk is a Turkish novelist, screenwriter, academic and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature.
The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng of Malaysia. Following a young law graduate who discovers the only Japanese garden in Malaya and its secretive owner and creator, the panel described it as an “intricately layered” novel that “unearths beauty and atrocity within buried histories”.
Tan Twan Eng was born in 1972 in Penang before living in various parts of Malaysia throughout his childhood. He studied law at the University of London and later worked as a lawyer in Kuala Lumpur.
Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil of India. A debut novel is hailed as an hallucinatory exploration of the evolution of Bombay over three decades, with the opium den “revealed as a microcosm of a city in transformation” according to Man Asian Literary Prize judge Maya Jaggi.
Born in Kerala, India, in June 1959 and educated in Hong Kong, New York and Bombay, Thayil is a performance poet, songwriter and guitarist, and has published four collections of poetry.