[Reporter Stephen Quinn speaks with Professor David Parker, director of the Man Asian Literary Prize.]
Fifteen novels were longlisted last night for the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize, among them a Nobel laureate's work, as organisers announced a record 108 entries in the annual event.
The books feature authors from Turkey to Japan and also, under new rules, Asian writers who have lost their nationality through state action. The Hong Kong-educated Indian writer Jeet Thayil is in the race with his first novel, Narcopolis, a tale of opium dens in 1970s Mumbai.
Three of the contenders are debut novelists and seven books are English translations of their original works, including Northern Girls, in which mainland Chinese author Sheng Keyi looks at the migration of rural workers to Shenzhen. Other topics covered in the novels include struggles with identity in the shadow of the Vietnam war, and the consequences of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution.
The chair of judges, Maya Jaggi, said: "The far-ranging stories on our longlist draw the reader into some beautiful and some gruelling landscapes: from the glaciers of northern Pakistan to the Saudi desert; from an affluent Istanbul seaside resort to a Bombay opium den, and to Montreal and Mexico."
Jaggi, a literary critic and journalist, said that a common thread running through a number of the books was people on the move, often not through their own choice, coping with change and modernity.
Jaggi's fellow judges are the Vietnamese-American novelist Monique Truong and the Indian author Vikram Chandra, past winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize.
Professor David Parker, executive director of the organising body, the Asian Literary Prize, said: "This list testifies to the strength and variety of new writing coming out of a culturally emergent Asia." Parker said he was looking forward to a time when the listed books would be read and discussed by middle-class families throughout Asia.
The Vietnam-born Canadian Kim Thuy and Roma Tearne, a Sri Lankan-born novelist living in Britain, are the two writers who lost their original nationalities.
The Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006, is in competition for the prize with Silent House.
The literary prize was founded in 2007 and has been sponsored by the international hedge fund Man Group. The winner gets US$30,000. In October, the title sponsor announced that this would be the last year of its funding for the prize. However, a spokesman for the prize said: "We have been approached by several potential sponsors and are in early negotiations."
The shortlist will be announced in Hong Kong on January 9, and the winner on March 14.
THE LONG LIST
Goat Days Benyamin (India)
Between Clay and Dust Musharraf Ali Farooqi (Pakistan)
Another Country Anjali Joseph (India)
The Briefcase Hiromi Kawakami (Japan)
Thinner Than Skin Uzma Aslam Khan (Pakistan)
Ru, Kim Thúy (Vietnam/Canada*)
Black Flower, Young-Ha Kim (South Korea)
Island of a Thousand Mirrors Nayomi Munaweera (Sri Lanka)
Silent House Orhan Pamuk (Turkey)
Honour Elif Shafak (Turkey)Northern Girls Sheng Keyi (China)
The Garden of Evening Mists Tan Twan Eng (Malaysia)
The Road To Urbino Roma Tearne (Sri Lanka / UK*)
Narcopolis Je et Thayil (India)
The Bathing Women Tie Ning (China)
* Writers who lost their original nationalities