It is time for the Booker Prize longlist in a few days. In the meantime, here’s a link to the Man Asian Literary Prize longlist, the equivalent of the Booker Prize for Asian literature. I must admit that I don’t know anyone on that list.
The Man Asian Literary Prize aims to bring new Asian authors to the attention of the world literary community and to facilitate publishing and translation of Asian literature in and into English. The novels submitted are yet to be published in English. Among the authors longlisted for the prize (21) there are Indians by the dozen, only three Chinese and four Filipinos (!). Lately there has been a lot of talking of how to bring Chinese literature to world attention, for example if awarding the Nobel Prize for Literature to a Chinese author would do the trick.
I wonder, though, if the problem is really the peculiarity of Asian literature or rather the lack of an industry of translations into English. I stumbled across an article from El Pais on the subject of translations from Spanish in the USA. No less that 15% of the population of the USA is hispanohablante, so you would expect books translated from Spanish every day and a reasonable market for literature in Spanish. In reality, from 2000 to 2006 only 13 Spanish writers of fiction have been translated into English. Latin Americans were not lucky, either: only 12 Cubans, 5 Argentinians and only 8 Mexicans have reached the bookshelves of Uncle Sam. I can hardly believe these numbers! The author only hopes that the sudden success of Junot Díaz (who writes in English, anyway) and Roberto Bolaño will boost translations in the country. If this is the situation for Spanish translations in the States, I can imagine how little room there must be for authors who write in Chinese, Italian or Finnish. I wonder if the situation is similar in the UK and I would like to compare statistcs with Italy, although I already know that the situation here is way better.