March 15, 2012 by markstani
Kyung-sook Shin’s Please Look After Mother has won the MAN Asian Literary Prize for 2011. I’m pleased with the result, though I know of others who aren’t. It’s fair to say the book polarised opinion among the blogging community more than any of the other six shortlisted contenders.
Whatever your view, I don’t think anybody can deny the impression ‘Please Look After Mother’ has made on the Asian literary scene. It has sold well over one million copies in South Korea, and been translated into many different languages. That might not justify its Prize-winning in itself, but it certainly underlines its popularity.
‘Please Look After Mother’ was also voted our ‘Shadow’ Jury winner, and Shin’s Prize horde might not stop there: it’s been longlisted for this year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.
Overall, I think this year saw a particularly strong longlist. It is testament to the quality of those that made the cut that you couldn’t argue too loudly with the omission of two excellent novels, The Folded Earth and The Good Muslim, from the shortlist.
Of the remaining seven, only Banana Yoshimoto’s The Lake jarred a little for me, though it was by no means bad enough to put me off Yoshimoto for life: on the contrary, I’ll look her next book up out of interest.
I’ve said before that I though Jamil Ahmad’s The Wandering Falcon was the best of the lot. His book deserves to be read, if only to shatter the convenient myths associated with the so-called Pakistani tribal areas. I was delighted to see a bunch of his books in Harrogate Waterstone’s recently. Nobody can deny that Prizes such as the MAN Asian Literary Prize help spread the word about worthy reads.
For much the same reason, I’d like to mention Rebirth by Jahnavi Barua – the only shortlisted title whose publication was restricted to the Indian subcontinent. Her delicate tale of love and loss in Assam and Bangalore was worth tracking down, and if the result of its spotlighting is that Barua goes on to gain global rights, then this year’s Prize will have its ideal legacy.