China Face

Stars on the horizon

Updated: 2011-01-14 11:21

By Ann Williams (China Daily European Weekly)

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"What we see published in English by Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian and other East Asian writers is only a fraction of what is actually published," he explains.

Stars on the horizon

Xu has the advantage because she moved to the United States when she was only 10. So, she is completely at home writing in English - and with it comes the problem of definition of Asian writing.

"Some of the most extraordinary books that come out in English each year are from Asian writers. Everyone has his favorites and it is unfair perhaps to single any out, but whether a new shooting star like Miguel Syjuco, or consistently novel and surprising writers like Guo Xiaolu, Dai Sijie or Haruki Marukami, or challenging ones like Mo Yan or Yu Hua, there is much that readers can feel thankful for and look forward to," Gordon says of the Asian-born writers.

One of the most important "new" names in 2010 was Miguel Syjuco. The Philippine author won the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize with his manuscript Ilustrado, which was eventually published in 2010.

"He has received quite extraordinary critical acclaim, and the book has been picked up around the world," he says. "Several well-established authors had new books out in 2010, such as Yiyun Li's Gold Boy, Emerald Girl and Su Tong's 2009 Man Asian Prize-winning novel which came out last year as well."

While Su is still based in his native China, Li now lives in California and is regarded very much as an American writer - she was selected among the top 21 young American authors by the influential Granta magazine.

Matt Steele, manager of retail operations and buying at Dymocks booksellers in Hong Kong, also highlights Syjuco and Su (for The Boat to Redemption) as the stars of 2010, along with Yu Hua's Brothers, Pai Kit Fai's Red Lotus, Tash Aw with Map of the Invisible World, and Dai Sijie's Once on a Moonless Night.

"In addition, Kazuo Ishiguro has been popular for Nocturnes, while his Never Let Me Go is making a comeback with an imminent film release (Keira Knightley is playing one of the leads), and Haruki Murakami remains ever popular with his books such as Norwegian Wood - a movie version of this is also on general release currently."

Of the long-listed authors, Bi Feiyu is nominated for his novel Three Sisters, a portrait of contemporary Chinese culture, from village to city.

Kenzaburo Oe is a prolific novelist and essayist, and his latest, The Changeling, follows a writer searching to understand why his brother-in-law committed suicide.

Yoko Ogawa also has an impressive pedigree. She's listed for Hotel Iris, about a 17-year-old girl and set in a crumbling seaside hotel.

Former journalist Criselda Yabes' book Below the Crying Mountain focuses on the Moro rebellion of the 1970s in the Philippines.

Not only is Steele looking forward to the Man Asian Literary Prize, but also the Hong Kong International Literary Festival, which takes place in March.

"The festival can help highlight new talents," he notes.

"East Asian writers certainly aren't taking over the world yet, but great steps are being taken by publishers and agents to discover 'new' writers to translate and introduce to the English market, particularly in China. Slowly but surely, both quality and quantity of writing and translating are increasing."

Ann Williams is a Hong Kong-based writer.

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