Monday, March 08, 2010

Rules Change for Man Asian

The Man Asian Literary Prize is one of the few international awards open to Malaysian writers, but what has happened to it? M.A. Orthofer at The Literary Saloon writes a very good piece on the prize and, after a year on haitus, it's sudden reinvention with completely new rules.

He links a piece Nury Vittachi wrote for The Standard (Hong Kong) asking : Heard the one about vanishing literary prize? 

The preliminary announcement about the prize, Orthofer says :
... does indicate some of the major changes. The most significant of these is that the prize that used to be for an "Asian novel unpublished in English" will now be awarded: "for a novel written by a citizen of an Asian country and first published in English in 2010". I.e. they've practically turned the whole thing on its head: where the ostensible purpose of the prize was always to introduce new 'Asian' writers to English-reading audiences, now they're only interested in the stuff that's already been taken on by English-language publishers. Don't expect too many shortlisted works from Burma/Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam, etc. etc. from now on. On the other hand: expect a surge of titles translated from the regional Indian languages, since many of these do get translated into English -- albeit generally only in India-only editions. And expect a surge of even more titles originally written in English -- more likely to have already been published in the author's home country, if that country is India, Malaysia, Singapore, etc.

The M'A'LP-folk also try to make this prize more eye-catching (i.e. media-attention-grabbing) the only way they know how: by increasing the money on offer, trebling the award from US$10,000 to US$30,000. But, to prove how little translation matters (and is wanted: it's clear they prefer the books to be written in English) they didn't even double the money a translator would get if the winning title is a translation: it was US$3,000 and is now US$5,000. (Edith Grossman had it right, about translators getting no respect .....)

Finally -- and this is the change that I find most irritating -- whereas in previous years works had to be "submitted by the author or the current holder of the rights to the English language version" they have now taken the UK Man Booker-approach, with submissions only permitted by publishers -- and, just like the UK Man Booker: "Each publisher may enter up to two eligible books", and no more. (The M'A'LP at this point doesn't even seem to allow for called-in titles (as the proper Man Booker at least permits); presumably the finalized eligibility rules will make some allowance for something of this sort.) It's ridiculous (though given how few complain about the Man Booker taking this approach they presumably don't have to worry about much criticism on this one point) !


Ee Leen Lee said...

I understand the change in ruling regarding unpublished novels- perhaps they want to avoid slushpile standards.
But at the same time, it seriously limits the variety of entries. Rough diamonds may not the prettiest but they are certainly more interesting...

bibliobibuli said...

agree with you on both counts. i think they are looking to publishers to do their gatekeeping for them, which i can certainly understand.

Amir Muhammad said...

Cue the Monty Python 'spam' sketch.