The shortlist for the fourth annual Man Asian Literary Prize was announced yesterday, marking the first time the relatively new prize has called out titles already published in English. According to an article on yesterday's Wall Street Journal arts blog, the shift took place after organizers found the prize wasn't quite fulfilling its original objective: to seek out and distinguish unknown writers.
The old prize model accepted from Asian writers novel manuscripts that remained unpublished in English, but, despite the proposed aim of the award, did not stipulate at what stage in their careers eligible writers should be. The inaugural winner, selected from more than two hundred and fifty submissions, was Jiang Rong for Wolf Totem, which had already been published in Chinese and sold millions of copies. In 2009, Su Tong, well known for his novel Raise the Red Lantern, won for The Boat to Redemption. Only the 2008 winner, Filipino American writer Miguel Syjuco, was recognized for what would become his debut novel, Ilustrado (and even he had received the prestigious Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature for the same manuscript in the Philippines).
“As we sat down and thought about it, we came to realize that, in fact, the Man Booker [Prize] format of dealing with published novels is a lot better,” David Parker, chairman of the Man Asian Literary Prize, told the Wall Street Journal, referring to the Man Asian Prize's long-running British Commonwealth counterpart. He went on to say that the Booker "is a focus of a conversation about literature that occurs every year. It’s not just about writers and publishers. It’s about readers as well. It’s about the whole culture getting involved in literature.”
This year's conversation-starters are:
Three Sisters (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Bi Feiyu of China
Serious Men (Norton) by Manu Joseph of India
The Thing About Thugs (HarperCollins) by Tabish Khair of India
The Changeling (Grove Press) by Kenzaburo Oe of Japan
Hotel Iris (Picador) by Yoko Ogawa of Japan
The winner of the thirty-thousand-dollar prize will be announced in Hong Kong on March 17.