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Agence France-Presse
India dominates Man Asian book prize shortlist
<p>David Watkins</p>
January 11, 2012

HONG KONG, Jan 11, 2012 (AFP) - Indian writers dominate the shortlist of
authors competing for Asia's top English-language literary prize, with a debut
Pakistani novelist also among those vying for the $30,000 award.

An unprecedented seven authors, including three from India and writers from
Pakistan, South Korea, Japan and China, will compete for the 2011 Man Asian
Literary Prize after judges expanded the shortlist from its usual five.

BBC correspondent Razia Iqbal, who heads the judging panel, said the
shortlist had been expanded to accommodate the current strength of Asian
contemporary fiction and "the imaginative power of the stories now being
written about rapidly changing life" in the region.

"This power and diversity made it imperative for us to expand the 2011 Man
Asian Literary Prize shortlist beyond the usual five books," she said in a
statement from London Tuesday.

The prize, limited to Asian authors whose books are either written in
English or translated into English, was founded in 2007 and shares the same
sponsor as the Man Booker Prize, among the world's top literary awards.

The seven shortlisted books include Rahul Bhattacharya's "The Sly Company
of People Who Care". Set in Guyana, it chronicles a man's decision to give up
his job and travel to escape his humdrum life.

Bhattacharya, an Indian cricket journalist, said his shortlisting was a
welcome surprise akin to finding money in the street.

"I am trying to block the idea from my mind that such a prize exists, leave
alone thinking whether I will win it," he told AFP in New Delhi. "Just being
nominated is a huge bonus."

Another shortlisted work is "Rebirth" by Indian doctor and author Jahnavi
Barua, about a young woman faced with an uncertain marriage and portraying the
bond between a mother and her unborn child.

"Indian writing in English has always been strong, but Asian writing both
in English and in other languages is very strong at the moment with writers
ranging across topics and lots of young authors emerging," Barua told AFP.

Amitav Ghosh's historical epic "River of Smoke", the second volume of a
planned trilogy, charts the storm-tossed journey of a convict ship from
Calcutta into China's crowded harbours.

The three Indian authors will compete against "The Wandering Falcon", the
debut by Islamabad-based author Jamil Ahmad set in the border areas of
Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan in the decades before the rise of the Taliban.

As a member of the Civil Service of Pakistan, Ahmad was posted in
Pakistan's embassy in Kabul before and during the Soviet invasion of
Afghanistan in 1979.

Also vying for the prize is "Please Look After Mom" by acclaimed South
Korean novelist Kyung-sook Shin, a novel that is a million-plus-copy
bestseller in its native country detailing a family's search for their missing

The shortlist also includes "Dream of Ding Village" by Chinese novelist Yan
Lianke, an account of an HIV blood-selling scandal in China that was
officially censored upon its Chinese publication.

"The Lake" by top-selling Japanese author Banana Yoshimoto tells the tale
of a young woman who moves to Tokyo after the death of her mother before
finding herself embroiled in a troubled romance.

The two other judges for the competition are Pulitzer-prize finalist and
author of "The Surrendered", Chang-rae Lee, and Vikas Swarup, author of "Q &
A", which was filmed as the Oscar-winning "Slumdog Millionaire".

A total of 90 books were submitted for entry in 2011 and a longlist of 12
was announced in October last year. The winning author is awarded $30,000 and
the translator, if any, receives $5,000.

The winner will be announced at a black-tie ceremony in Hong Kong on March
15. Last year's prize was won by acclaimed Chinese author Bi Feiyu for "Three
Sisters", set during the Cultural Revolution.