By Edward Nawotka
There’s plenty of literary activity going on in China this week.
First comes the news that in its fourth year, the Man Asian Literary Prize will change: Instead of awarding the prize to an “Asian novel unpublished in English,” the Prize will now be given to “a novel written by a citizen of an Asian country and first published in English in 2010.”
Translations into English of works originally in another Asian language are also eligible, provided they are first published in English in 2010. What’s more, the prize triples to $30,000 (from $10,000) with $5,000 (up from $3,000) going to a translator (provided there is one).
The shift in priorities may signal the maturation of the English-language publishing scene in the Pacific Rim, with the prize committee acknowledging that there are now agents and others in the industry capable of discovering manuscripts of high quality.
What’s more, a number of the previous winners where hardly discoveries: The first prize in 2007 was given to Wolf Totem by Chinese author Jiang Rong. It had already sold some six million copies in Chinese — four million of which were said to have been pirated; HarperCollins subsequently picked up the English-language rights to the book for what was said to be $100,000 — a record at the time for a Chinese manuscripts.
The 2008 winner, Illustrado by Filipino writer Miguel Syjuco was a debut, though it had also won a Palanca Award, which is the largest literary prize in the Philippines. It is being published in the UK later this year.
Su Tong, who won the 2009 prize for his book The Boat to Redemption was no newcomer — he’d already written a brace of popular novels, including the 1989 novel Wives and Concubines, which was the inspiration behind Zhang Yimou’s Oscar nominated film Raise the Red Lantern.
Lit Festival A-go-go
Su Tong will be one of 80 authors appearing at the 10th annual Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival, which along with the University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, is responsible for administrating the prize.
The festival kicks off this Thursday with more than 80 authors making appearances, including Junot Diaz, Vikram Chandra, Andre Brink and Xu Xi. Su Tong will be in conversation with his literary agent Marysia Juszczakiewicz (who we profiled earlier this year).
In Beijing, the English-language bookstore The Bookworm is hosting its annual literary festival, which it also takes to the cities of Chengdu and Suzhou, and runs simultaneously in all three locations from March 5-19.
This is the third year of the event, which is primarily for English-language authors. For this year, the festival has vowed to become carbon-neutral, with all flights for authors — most of whom fly long distances to attend — being offset by the purchase of carbon credits. The festival includes events from writing worships to author readings. In all, some 70 authors are participating, including Amitav Ghosh, Les Murray and David Grossman.
READ: The latest updates from the Man Asian International Literary Prize
VIEW: The schedule for the Man Hong Kong International Book Festival
DOWNLOAD: The Bookworm International Literary Festival’s “Festival In-a-box” of activities for children.
DISCUSS: What are best practices for book festivals?