December 4, 2012 by markstani
Jeet Thayil’s Narcopolis and Tan Twan Eng’s ‘The Garden Of Evening Mists’ – both shortlisted for the 2012 Booker Prize – head a fascinating-looking longlist for the 2012 MAN Asian Prize. The sub-continent is especially well represented, with three entries from India, and two each from Pakistan and Sri Lanka. As last year, we will be running a ‘Shadow’ jury alongside the official panel, who will announce their shortlist of five or six titles on January 9. The overall winner will be announced on March 14 in Hong Kong. Reviews by the ‘Shadow’ jury will be accessible via the badge to the right of this post (see previous post for details of my fellow jury). In the meantime, here are the opening lines from each of this year’s fifteen longlisted titles:
GOAT DAYS by Benyamin (India)
Like two defeated men, Hameed and I stood for a while in front of the small police station at Batha. Two policemen were sitting in the sentry box near the gate. One was reading something. His posture, the way he moved his head, and his half-closed eyes, suggested that it was a religious text.
BETWEEN CLAY AND DUST by Musharraf Ali Farooqi (Pakistan)
In an old ruined city, emptied of most of its inhabitants, Ustad Ramzi, a famous wrestler past his prime, and Gohar Jan, a well-known courtesan whose kotha once attracted the wealthy and the eminent, contemplate the former splendour of their lives and the ruthless currents of time and history that have swept them into oblivion.
ANOTHER COUNTRY by Anjali Joseph (India)
Leela, self-conscious, released into the world, walked down the boulevard de Sebastopol. A September afternoon. Chestnut trees allowed their leaves to fall; the warm air carried them to the pavement. She had never seen leaves fall so slowly.
THE BRIEFCASE by Hiromi Kawakami (Japan)
His full name was Mr. Harutsuna Matsumoto, but I called him “Sensei.” Not “Mr.” or “Sir,” just “Sensei.”
He was my Japanese teacher in high school. He wasn’t my home-room teacher, and Japanese class didn’t interest me much, so I didn’t really remember him. Since graduation, I hadn’t seen him for quite a while.
THINNER THAN SKIN by Uzma Aslam Khan (Pakistan)
She had felt this way once before and it might have been the wind then too.
There had been the scent of the horse right before he ran. The steam rising from the manure he had left in a thick pile on the glacier. The wind carrying the dissipating heat to her nostrils just as the horse’s nostrils flared in panic. Then he was racing forward, straight into a fence of barbed wire masked in a thicket of pine.
RU by Kim Thuy (Vietnam/Canada)
I came into the world during the Tet Offensive, in the early days of the Year of the Monkey, when the long chains of firecrackers draped in front of houses exploded polyphonically along with the sound of machine guns.
BLACK FLOWER by Young-ha Kim (South Korea)
With his head thrust into the swamp filled with swaying weeds, many things swarmed before Ijeong’s eyes. All were pieces of the scenery of Jemulpo that he thought he had long ago forgotten.
ISLAND OF A THOUSAND MIRRORS by Nayomi Munaweera (Sri Lanka)
I lie in the cave of his body, fluid seeping from between my legs. Shadows spin slowly across the sky-blue walls of this humid, airless room and my limbs are heavy, weighted with exhaustion and frantic, war-like lovemaking.
SILENT HOUSE by Orhan Pamuk (Turkey)
“Dinner is nearly ready, Madam,” I said. “Please come to the table.”
She said nothing, just stood there, planted on her cane. I went over, took her by the arm, and brought her to the table. She just muttered a little. I went down to the kitchen, got her tray, and put it in front of her. She looked at it but didn’t touch the food. I got out her napkin, stretched it out under her huge ears, knotted it.
HONOUR by Elif Shafak (Turkey)
My mother died twice. I promised myself I would not let her story be forgotten, but I could never find the time or the will or the courage to write about it. That is, until recently. I don’t think I’ll ever become a real writer and that’s quite all right now. I’ve reached an age at which I’m more at peace with my limitations and failures. But I had to tell the story, even if only to one person. I had to send it into some corner of the universe where it could float freely, away from us.
NORTHERN GIRLS by Sheng Keyi (China)
Xiaohong found that the beige jacket she’d hung up was missing. Ah Jun had reminded her not to leave it out. Still, it had to be washed and hung out to the dry. She was too lazy to make a complaint. She know how things worked here and knew that anything of even a little value could grow wings and fly off into someone else’s embrace.
THE GARDEN OF EVENING MISTS by Tan Twan Eng (Malaysia)
On a mountain above the clouds once lived a man who had been the gardener of the emperor of Japan. Not many people would have known of him before the war, but I did. He had left his home on the rim of the sunrise to come to the central highlands of Malaya.
THE ROAD TO URBINO by Roma Tearne (Sri Lanka/UK)
Last night I dreamt I was in Talaimannar again. With the ancient lighthouse casting yellow stripes across the water and the rock rising steeply against the sky. The sea was calm and Adam’s Bridge was clearly visible in the dusk.
NARCOPOLIS by Jeet Thayil (India)
Bombay, which obliterated its own history by changing its name and surgically altering its face, is the hero or heroin of this story, and since I’m the one who’s telling it and you don’t know who I am, let me say that we’ll get to the who of it but not right now
THE BATHING WOMEN by Tie Ning (China)
Tiao’s apartment had a three-seater sofa and two single armchairs. Their covers were satin brocade, a sort of fuzzy blue-gray, like the eyes of some European women, soft and clear. The chairs were arranged in the shape of a flattened U, with the sofa at the base and the armchairs facing each other on two sides.