At the heart of the current controversy over the inaugural Man Asian Literary Prize is just how “Asian” its judging panel should be.Who do you think is right? Should an Asian prize be judged by Asian judges?
According to the chairman of the new prize, Peter Gordon, it should be about rewarding good writing, and the races and nationalities of its judges are irrelevant.
“Asian is a geographical description, and I don’t think one wants to read any more significance into it than that. Do you need to be Russian to appreciate Dostoevsky?”
The Hong Kong-based publisher was in Singapore recently to put out a call for submissions for the inaugural award. He is director of the Hong Kong Literary Festival, which is organising the US$10,000 (RM36,000) Man Asian prize. It is sponsored by hedge fund manager Man Group, which also presents the prestigious Man Booker Prize.
The three judges for the Asian prize, all writers, are: André Aciman, an Egyptian based in New York; Adrienne Clarkson, a Chinese Canadian; and Nicholas José, a Eurasian Australian who has lived in China and is fluent in Mandarin.
But popular Hong Kong writer Nury Vittachi says the panel did not truly reflect voices from Asia.
”They are Western Asians, not Asian authors in Asia. Some of them look Asian, but that’s not the point. To have a truly international panel, you need Asians as well as Westerners.”
I'm really grateful to Ron for pointing me in the direction of this post on Literary Saloon which tosses all the questions up in the air and then adds a few of its own. It also takes issue with the definition of "Asia" in the competitions rules awarding the organisers an F for Geography.