Friday, 15 March 2019

Asian titles on the Man Booker International Prize longlist

The Man Booker International Prize celebrates the finest works of fiction from around the world, if they have been translated into English. It is awarded every year for a single book which is translated into English and published in the UK. This week, the 13 novels in contention for the 2019 prize were announced.  They include Can Xue's Love In The New Millennium, translated from Chinese by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen, and Hwang Sok-yong's At Dusk, translated from Korean by Sora Kim-Russell.

Love In The New Millennium 
Love In The New Millennium concerns a group of women inhabiting a world of constant surveillance, where informants lurk in the flowerbeds and false reports fly. Conspiracies abound in a community that normalises paranoia and suspicion. Some try to flee — whether to a mysterious gambling bordello or to ancestral homes that can only be reached underground through muddy caves, sewers, and tunnels. Others seek refuge in Nest County, where traditional Chinese herbal medicines can reshape or psychologically transport the self. Each life is circumscribed by buried secrets and transcendent delusions. The novel traces love's many guises—satirical, tragic, transient, lasting, nebulous, and fulfilling, against a kaleidoscopic backdrop drawn from East and West of commerce and industry, fraud and exploitation, sex and romance.

The judges said Love In The New Millennium: "Jolts the reader from the real to the surreal. A meditative experience that opens up a fever dream of contemporary Chinese writing."

Can Xue was born in Changsha, Hunan, China in May 1953. She is a Chinese avant-garde fiction writer, literary critic, and tailor. Xue began writing in 1983 and published her first short-story in 1985. She has written novels, novellas, and works of literary criticism about the work of Dante, Jorge Luis Borges, and Franz Kafka. Regarded as one of the most experimental writers in the world by some literary scholars and readers, her writing, which consists mostly of short fiction, breaks with the realism of earlier modern Chinese writers. She lives in Buffalo, NY, USA.

Annelise Finegan Wasmoen was born in Philadelphia, USA, in September 1981. She is Academic Director and Clinical Assistant Professor of the MS in Translation and oversees the Translation and Interpreting open enrolment programme at The Center for Applied Liberal Arts at NYU. Her translations from Chinese into English include Can Xue’s novel The Last Lover, which received the Best Translated Book Award from Three Percent and was longlisted for the National Translation Award from the American Literary Translators Association. She also has a background in academic and textbook publishing. Annelise is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature at Washington University in St. Louis, where she completed a Graduate Certificate in Translation Studies, and she holds a B.A. in Literature from Yale University. She lives in Buffalo, NY, USA.

At Dusk
The protagonist, Park Minwoo is, by every measure a success story. Born into poverty in a miserable neighbourhood in Seoul, he has ridden the wave of development in a rapidly modernising society. The successful director of a large architectural firm, when his company is investigated for corruption he is forced to reconsider his role in the transformation of his country. At the same time, he receives an unexpected message from an old friend, Cha Soona, a woman whom he had once loved, and then betrayed. As memories return unbidden, Minwoo recalls a world he thought had been left behind ― a world he now understands that he has helped to destroy.

The judges said At Dusk is: "A delicately drawn, vividly peopled and deftly plotted exploration of profound shifts in Korean society."

Hwang Sok-yong was born in Changchun, China in January 1943. In 1993, he was sentenced to seven years in prison for an unauthorised trip to North Korea to promote artistic exchange between the two Koreas. He was released five years later on a special pardon by the new president. He has been shortlisted for the Prix Femina Étranger and was awarded the Émile Guimet Prize for Asian Literature for At Dusk. His novels and short stories are published in North and South Korea, Japan, China, France, Germany, and the United States. He lives in Seoul, South Korea.

Sora Kim-Russell was born in Florida, USA, in March 1976. She is a poet and translator, and teaches at Ewha Women's University. She lives in Seoul.

The shortlist of six books for the 2019 Man Booker International Prize will be announced on 9 April and the winner will be announced on 21 May, both announcements will be made in London.