Man Asian Literary Prize Longlist
The 12-title longlist for this year’s Man Asian Literary Prize has just been announced. You can watch the “breaking news” style announcement below, and below that you can read the whole list and get summaries of the more interesting titles (in my opinion).
Before getting into the list though, it’s worth explaining that the Man Asian Literary Prize is an annual award given to the best novel by an Asian writer1 either written in English or translated into English, and published in the previous year. The shortlist is announced in January, and the winner in March. The winning author gets $30,000 USD, and the translator (if there is one), wins $5,000.
“Set in the dusty streets of Dhaka and the villages and river-islands of rural Bangladesh, at a time when the rise of religious fundamentalism was a whisper in the wind, The Good Muslim is an epic, unforgettable story of the challenges of peace in the long shadow of war. It is a novel that cleaves to the simple truths that shape all of our lives: that the bonds of family and love often strain to bear the weight of history.”
“A twenty-six-year-old Indian journalist decides to give up his job and travel to a country where he can escape the deadness of his life. So he arrives in Guyana, a forgotten colonial society of raw, mesmerising beauty. From the beautiful, decaying wooden houses of Georgetown, through coastal sugarcane plantations, to the dark rainforest interior scavenged by diamond-hunters, he is absorbed by the fantastic possibilities of this place where the descendants of the enslaved and the indentured have made a new world. But he is not just seduced by the country: he is also captivated by the feisty yet fragile Jan, and together they embark on an adventure which will take them into a new country and change both their lives. In his dazzling and ambitious debut novel, Rahul Bhattacharya has created a story that follows the shape and rhythms of life, not art.”
“The Colonel is set on a pitch black, rainy night in a small Iranian town. Inside his house the Colonel is immersed in thought. Memories are storming in. Memories of his wife. Memories of the great patriots of the past, all of them assassinated or executed. Memories of his children, who had joined the different factions of the 1979 revolution. There is a knock on the door. Two young policemen have come to summon the Colonel to collect the tortured body of his youngest daughter and bury her before sunrise. The Islamic Revolution, like every other revolution in history, is devouring its own children. And whose fault is that? This shocking diatribe against the failures of the Iranian left over the last fifty years does not leave one taboo unbroken.”
“On the grand scale of an historical epic, River of Smoke follows its storm-tossed characters to the crowded harbors of China. There, despite efforts of the emperor to stop them, ships from Europe and India exchange their cargoes of opium for boxes of tea, silk, porcelain and silver. Among them are Bahram Modi, a wealthy Parsi opium merchant out of Bombay, his estranged half-Chinese son Ah Fatt, the orphaned Paulette and a motley collection of others whose pursuit of romance, riches and a legendary rare flower have thrown together. All struggle to cope with their losses – and for some, unimaginable freedoms – in the alleys and crowded waterways of 19th century Canton. As transporting and mesmerizing as an opiate induced dream, River of Smoke will soon be heralded as a masterpiece of twenty-first century literature. Following Sea of Poppies, this is the second novel in Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy.”
Pretty sure we don’t need to include a summary for this one . . .
“As the book opens, Ding Village’s town directors, looking for a way to lift their village from poverty, decide to open a dozen blood-plasma collection stations. The directors hope to drain the townspeople of their blood and sell it to villages near and far. The novel focuses on one family, destroyed when one son rises to the top of the Party as he exploits the situation, while another is infected and dies. Based on a real-life blood-selling scandal in eastern China, the novel is the result of three years of undercover work by Lianke, who once worked as an assistant to a well-known Beijing anthropologist in an effort to study a small village decimated by HIV/AIDS as a result of unregulated blood selling. The result is a passionate and steely critique of the rate at which China is developing—and what happens to those who get in the way.”
“The Lake tells the tale of a young woman who moves to Tokyo after the death of her mother, hoping to get over her grief and start a career as a graphic artist. She finds herself spending too much time staring out her window, though … until she realizes she’s gotten used to seeing a young man across the street staring out his window, too. They eventually embark on a hesitant romance, until she learns that he has been the victim of some form of childhood trauma. Visiting two of his friends who live a monastic life beside a beautiful lake, she begins to piece together a series of clues that lead her to suspect his experience may have had something to do with a bizarre religious cult . . .”
I suppose that 1Q84 has to be the favorite, but for some reason I have a feeling that it’s not going to win. Probably because I read that Laura Miller diatribe and have a secret desire for all book prizes to make themselves irrelevant by awarding great books instead of simply the most popular ones. Then again, unlike Miller, I tend to enjoy books that aren’t the center of the mainstream book reviewing world, and in no way view them as “literary spinach.”
Seriously, she disses the Newbery Medal? Not unlike the rest of the essay, that piece is a bit muddled and at cross-purposes, but apparently she considers Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, and Raskin’s The Westing Game, as books “that somebody else thinks you ought to read, whether you like it or not”???? I’m going to stop here before I say something mean.
1 “Authors must be citizens of one of the following Asian countries or territories: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, The Hong Kong or Macau Special Administrative Regions, The Maldives, The People’s Republic of China, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam; ‘Citizen’ in the case of the Hong Kong or Macau SAR may be taken to be permanent residency.”