Man Asian Literary Prize

Contenders for Asian prize named

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 July, 2007, 12:00am

The search for the first winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize began in earnest on Friday with the announcement in Hong Kong of the 23 authors whose works have been selected for the longlist.

The award, sponsored by Man Group, the backer of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction and Hong Kong's International Literary Festival, attracted more than 240 entries from countries including India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Myanmar, Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, China, Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and Japan.

'This first year's submissions exceeded our expectations both in quality and breadth,' says prize chairman Peter Gordon. 'We're very pleased at the reception this inaugural prize has received throughout the region and to see submissions from almost every country in Asia.'

Many of the submissions (manuscripts of completed novels not yet published in English) came late in the day, says Gordon. 'We were beginning to wonder how many we would receive. The authors seem to have been polishing their works right up until the last minute. ' The longlist includes Chinese writer Mo Yan, best known for Red Sorghum in the late 1980s, which depicts the hidden desires and grief experienced by farmers during and after the second world war and was adapted for an award-winning film by director Zhang Yimou.

Mo was tipped by critics as a Nobel laureate in waiting after the release of Big Breasts and Wide Hips (1995). His shortlisted novel, Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out, borrows from the Buddhist theory of reincarnation to trace the history of the rural mainland under communist rule from 1950 to 2000.

Fellow Chinese writers whose works will go forward to the next stage of judging include Guo Xiaolu, whose A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers this year won critical acclaim and was shortlisted for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction, and Jiang Rong, whose Wolf Totem has sold more than a million copies on the mainland and was snapped up for translation by Penguin in 2005 for US$100,000. It will be released in English in March.

Other voices from around the region include Filipino author Jose Dalisay Jnr, who has written 15 books of stories, plays, and essays, five of which received the National Book Award from the Manila Critics Circle, and Hong Kong's Xu Xi, named by The New York Times as a pioneer writer from Asia in English.

Japanese literary prodigy Hitomi Kanehara also makes the cut for Autofiction. The 23-year-old dropped out of school at 15 and went on to win the prestigious Akutagawa Prize in 2003 for Snakes and Earrings, her controversial portrayal of violent sex and body modification among Japan's youth, which topped best-seller lists with sales of more than one million.

Malaysian writer Chiew-Siah Tei secures her place with Little Hut of Leaping Fishes, her first novel in English. The bilingual writer from Tampin, a small town in the country's south, has won the Hua Zong International Chinese Fiction Award and scripted Night Swimmer, which scooped the Best Short Film award at the Vendome International Film Festival.

Myanmese writer Nu Nu Yi Inwa, who made the list with Smile as They Bow, was born in 1957 near Mandalay and since her debut in 1984 has written more than 15 novels and 100 short stories, often set among the rural poor and social outcasts.

The longlist is dominated by writers from South Asia, with 14 of the works chosen for further consideration written by authors from the Indian subcontinent.

The prize, which is open to works of Asian fiction unpublished in English, aims to bring new authors in Asia to the attention of the world, encourage translation and publication of Asian literature in English, and highlight Asia's developing role in world literature.

The shortlist for the prize will be released in October, with the winner due to be announced on November 10 at an awards ceremony in Hong Kong.

Inaugural Man Asian Literary Prize longlist

Tulsi Badrinath (India), The Living God

Sanjay Bahadur (India), The Sound of Water

Kankana Basu (India), Cappuccino Dusk

Sanjiv Bhatla (India), Injustice

Shahbano Bilgrami (Pakistan), Without Dreams

Saikat Chakraborty (India), The Amnesiac

Jose Dalisay Jnr (Philippines), Soledad's Sister

Reeti Gadekar (India), Families at Home

Xiaolu Guo (China), 20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth

Ameena Hussein (Sri Lanka), The Moon in the Water

Nu Nu Yi Inwa (Myanmar), Smile as They Bow

Jiang Rong (China), Wolf Totem

Hitomi Kanehara (Japan), Autofiction

N.S. Madhavan (India), Litanies of Dutch Battery

Laxmi Narayan Mishra (India), The Little God

Mo Yan (China), Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out

Nalini Rajan (India), The Pangolin's Tale

Chiew-Siah Tei (Malaysia), Little Hut of Leaping Fishes

Shreekumar Varma (India), Maria's Room

Anuradha Vijayakrishnan (India), Seeing the Girl

Sujatha Vijayaraghavan (India), Pichaikuppan

Xu Xi (Hong Kong), Habit of a Foreign Sky

Egoyan Zheng (Taiwan), Fleeting Light