The debut novel of an Indian poet and writer, who was educated in Hong Kong, is one of five works chosen for the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize shortlist.
Indian author Jeet Thayil's Narcopolis, which was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, joins four other novels spanning Turkey to Tokyo.
The novelists, including a Nobel Laureate, come from Malaysia, Pakistan, Japan, Turkey and India but it was a no-show for China, which has fielded three Man Asian Literary Prize winners, since the prize was first awarded in 2007.
The final five novels, which were announced yesterday evening, were this year selected from a record 108 entries of both original writing in English and translated novels, showcasing work from smaller regional publishers, as well as large international houses.
The executive director of the organising body of the award, Professor David Parker, said the shortlist had been picked from the most "formidable long list" the prize had seen. "Several of these writers have been celebrated in their own countries and recognised internationally but never before have we viewed them collectively as Asian writers," he said.
Literary critic and journalist Maya Jaggi is chair of the judging panel with her fellow evaluators, award winning Vietnamese-American novelist Monique Truong and novelist Vikram Chandra, a past winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize.
Of Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk's second novel, Silent House, Jaggi said: "Centred on a decrepit mansion at a Turkish seaside resort, on the eve of a military coup, this dark family saga is a brilliant comic satire."
Pamuk won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006. But Jaggi said past accolades would sway not the panel. "Yes, there is a Nobel Laureate on the shortlist," she said. "It doesn't mean they will win. This is a prize for a novel, not a lifetime of achievement."
The shortlisted novels are Between Clay and Dust by Musharraf Ali Farooqi (Pakistan); Silent House by Orhan Pamuk (Turkey); The Briefcase by Hiromi Kawakami (Japan); The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (Malaysia) and Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil (India). Two of the novels were also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
The winner, who will be announced in mid-March, will receive US$30,000 and the translator, if any, US$5,000.
The Man Group, which sponsors the prize, has stated it will not continue its support after March. A spokesman yesterday said the prize had been approached by several Asia-based and global corporations, but had yet to finalise a sponsor.
Professor David Parker spoke with video reporter Stephen Quinn about the impact of the prize.