Originally published on Rue89 18/11/2009.
The Neustadt Prize, the most prestigious literary prize after the Nobel, has been awarded for the first time to a Chinese writer, poet Duo Duo. We introduced Su Tong six months ago, he won the Man Asia Literary Prize for his novel “A Boat to Redemption”.
The American “Nobel”:The Neustadt Prize, named after the family who has generously financed it, is managed by the University of Oklahoma (which also publishes the magazine “World Literature Today”). The prize, awarded every two years, is considered the “American Nobel,” especially as two thirds of the Nobel winners were previously either candidates or winners of the Neustadt Prize. The competition was of high level as Ha Jin, one of the great living writers, and Haruki Murakami were selected for this prize of $ 50,000.
Duo Duo (Li Shizeng) is 58 years old and was born in Beijing, sent as many others “to the country” during the Cultural Revolution; he joined the group of poets labelled as “Misty”, who published the magazine ” Today ” from 1978 to 1980, when it was banned.
He is a journalist until 1989 and left China during the crackdown in Tiananmen Square as Bei Dao and Yang Lian, two well-known poets of this group, whose names were often quoted for the Nobel Prize.
He returned to China in 2004 and is a professor at the University of Hainan, an island at the southern tip of China. He is a frequent visitor to France, including the Salon du Livre of 2004 and was invited in 2005 to the House of Writers and Foreign Translators in Saint Nazaire (MEET) which in 2008 published “Poems of Saint Nazaire” translated by Chantal Chen- Andro.
The Man Asian Literary Prize:
The Investment Fund Man is funding every year the most prestigious English literary prize (“Man Booker Prize”) and “Man International Prize”. In 2007, in collaboration with the University of Hong Kong, was established a “Man Asian literary Prize” to reward a book by an Asian writer, not yet translated into English.
In 2007, the prize was awarded to Jian Rong for “The Wolf Totem.The writer Miguel Syjuco from Philippines won in 2008 against “Brothers” the novel by Yu Hua. The book by Su Tong “A Boat for Redemption” is being translated by Howard Goldblatt (who has also translated “Wolf Totem” in English)
The Chinese title of the book “River and Shores ” represents two different worlds during the Cultural Revolution, those who live on land and are politically strong and those who live on boats and whose loyalty is questionable.
Su Tong grew up in Suzhou, a cultural capital of China, near the river and his dream was to write a novel about the river and canals, we’ll come back later on this…