HONG KONG — Kyung-sook Shin on March 14 become the first woman to win the Man Asian Literary Prize, Asia’s most prestigious award for writers, for her novel “Please Look After Mom.”
The South Korean novelist attended the black-tie prize dinner at the Conrad Hotel in Hong Kong to receive the award of $30,000. The translator of the novel, Chi-Young Kim, received $5,000.
“Please Look After Mom” is a story of a family’s search for their mother, who goes missing one afternoon amid the crowds of the Seoul Station subway. It offers the reader an insight into traditional family life in contemporary South Korea and has already sold 1.93 million copies in South Korea alone – a country with a population of just under 50 million. The novel is now set to be published in 32 countries.
In 2011, 90 books were submitted for the prize, with a longlist of 12 being announced in October and an unprecedented shortlist of seven revealed in January.
Among those shortlisted was Banana Yoshimoto, one of the biggest-selling and most distinguished writers in Japanese history, for “The Lake.” The judges called her novel “a moving glimpse into the nature of an unconventional relationship.”
Rounding out the list were Amitav Ghosh (India) for “River of Smoke,” Jamil Ahmad (Pakistan) for “The Wandering Falcon,” Jahnavi Barua (India) for “Rebirth,” Rahul Bhattacharya (India) for “The Sly Company of People Who Care,” and Yan Lianke (China) for “Dream of Ding Village.”
Four of the shortlisted novels were originally written in English; the novels from South Korea, China and Japan were judged in translation.
The 2011 judges were Razia Iqbal (chair), BBC special correspondent; Chang-rae Lee, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of “The Surrendered”; and Vikas Swarup, author of “Q&A,” the novel on which the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” was based.
Iqbal said, “The judges were greatly impressed by the imaginative power of the stories now being written about rapidly changing life in worlds as diverse as the arid borderlands of Pakistan, the crowded cityscape of modern Seoul, and the opium factories of 19th-century Canton. This power and diversity made it imperative for us to expand the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize shortlist beyond the usual five books.”
Previous winners of the prize are Jiang Rong for “Wolf Totem,” Miguel Syjuco for “Ilustrado,” Su Tong for “The Boat to Redemption,” and Bi Feiyu for “Three Sisters.”
Nominations for the 2012 prize will open at the end of May to publishers of novels by Asian writers from 35 countries.
Founded in 2007, the annual literary award given to the best novel by an Asian writer, either written in English or translated into English, and published in the previous calendar year.
Man, an alternative investment management business, also sponsors the Man Booker Prize, the Man Booker International Prize, and the Lost Man Booker Prize.