He also highlights some of the teething problems the prize has faced:
Getting the funds and the green light from Man Group Plc took several years. Internal boardroom battles among the organisers changed the leadership of the prize, leaving a widespread feeling that it had become controlled by Western expatriates.(The omission of Malaysia from the list was a small hiccup, rectified in hours; the omission of Mongolia much more serious.)
There is continuing controversy over the choice of countries allowed to submit. Malaysia was accidentally omitted, but then reinstated. Other countries, such as Mongolia, are still missing from the list.
And then there is the new controversy that has sprung up since the announcement of the winner:
Critics have pointed out that while the prize was intended for authors unpublished in the West, the organisers actually handed it to a wildly successful and very wealthy writer who already has massive publishing contracts around the world.
“Jiang Rong is quite possibly the very last author in Asia who needs what the prize offers,” said an academic at the unofficial support website, themanasianliteraryprize.com. Another online literary commentator, The Literary Saloon said the prize “was created in order to facilitate publishing and translation of Asian literature in and into English – so, of course, the first time they hand out the award, they give it to the one title that has already gotten heaps of international press and been sold for large advances!”
The book has already sold two million copies ... and there's the possiblity that penguin deliberately held back the publication of the English edition of the book so that it could be entered for the prize.
One anonymous commenter on the letter page of the Man Asian Literary Prize site (the unofficial one) says:
Jiang Rong's book was purchased by Penguin in 2005 and translation work started afterwards with the book scheduled to be published in English on the Penguin 2007 list. However it was delayed until March 2008 thus becoming eligible under a technicality to be entered for this this prize for unpublished works. You can check with contacts at Penguin. But of course, the judges can only chose the best of the novels in front of them, and even if Penguin did manipulate their timing of events, they certainly did nothing illegal.
Worth reading on the aftermath of the prize is the very well written piece by an "UK academic specializing in Asian Studies" quoted in Nury's article.
Nice of Nury by the way to mention my blog:
... one of the liveliest discussion venues in Asia for debate about the prize.(Ahem!)
and the controversy we stirred about the Asian story arc thing. I am not finished with the topic yet (at least in my own head if not on the blog) and won't be for a while!
But it is so nice to feel that there is a wider discussion going on about Asian writing and how to grow and encourage it. I'm really glad Nury agreed to write for us and hope he will do so again.
There's also a very good review by Janet Tay of The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold. Must read this.