This is the award, of course, that writers here in Malaysia should have their eyes firmly fixed on, particularly as it offers those who write in a language other than English the possibility of much wider recognition and international publication.
The five selected titles are:
Nu Nu Yi Inwa (Burma) Smile as They BowSadly, Malaysian author Chiew-Siah Tei did not make the shortlist, but I am very much looking forward to reading her novel.
(The Rangoon based author sets her fiction among the rural poor and social outcasts. This book was apparently with the censors for a year before it was permitted to be published and then translated, and nowl will be published in English by Hyperion Est in September 2008.)
Reeti Gadekar (India) - Families at Home
(The suicide of a young woman from one of New Delhi's leading families turns out to be not all that it seems.)
Jiang Rong (China) - Wolf Totem
(Based on the author's experience living with nomadic communities on the Chinese border of Inner and Outer Mongolia, and due to be published by Penguin in March 2008.
Xu Xi (Chinese-Indonesian native of Hong Kong!) - Habit of a Foreign Sky.
("Set during the Asian financial crisis (it) provides a snapshot of that tumultuous era, and of the Sino-American relations of the time, in the story of a woman who loses both her mother and son in a single day.")
Jose Dalisay Jr (Philippines) - Soledad's Sister
("... a casket arrives at Manila airport bearing the body of someone called Aurora V Cabahug - who is very much alive.")
Am happy for Xu Xi, whom I met at Ubud last month, and about whom I can boast "I once published her!".
The winner will be announced on November 10 at a ceremony in Hong Kong.