HONG KONG (AFP) ― Acclaimed Chinese author Bi Feiyu on Thursday won Asia’s top literary prize for his “Three Sisters,” set during the Cultural Revolution.
Bi edged out four other shortlisted authors to secure the $30,000 Man Asian Literary Prize with the story of three women who “strive to change the course of their destinies” in one of China’s most chaotic political periods.
“When I entered the shortlist, all of my friends said, ‘Impossible, there’s no way a Chinese writer (could win),’” Bi said through an interpreter after winning the prize.
“They said, ‘Don’t even bother going to Hong Kong ― there is no point.’ But I had to come.”
Bi added that he hoped the book would make clear that “we should never forget the Cultural Revolution at any time.” His book edged out four other shortlisted submissions, from India and Japan, to take the top award.
The prize, limited to Asian authors whose books are either written in English or translated into English, was founded in 2007 and shares the same sponsor as the Man Booker Prize, among the world’s top literary awards.
Bi’s competition on the shortlist included debut Indian novelist Manu Joseph for his “Serious Men” and Japan’s Kenzaburo Oe, winner of the 1994 Nobel Prize for Literature, for “The Changeling.”
The story tells of one man’s search to find out why his brother-in-law killed himself.
Also on the shortlist was “The Thing About Thugs” by Tabish Khair and Japanese writer Yoko Ogawa’s “Hotel Iris.”
Ogawa’s novel is set in a crumbling seaside hotel and follows a quiet 17-year-old girl who finds herself drawn to a middle-aged man who has been kicked out of a room with a prostitute.
When the shortlist was announced last month, “Brick Lane” author Monica Ali said she and her fellow prize judges, Harvard academic Homi K. Bhabha and award-winning writer Hsu-Ming Teo, agreed on titles that highlighted Asia’s “thriving” literary scene.
All the shortlisted books touched on the human experience “in language that was beautifully honed,” Ali said.
The judges were tasked with choosing the shortlist from a 10-strong longlist, announced in December and including books from India, Japan, China and the Philippines, which was in turn whittled down from 54 titles from 14 Asian countries.