"Raise the Red Lantern" author wins Asian book prize

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The Independent Culture

The Chinese author behind Oscar-nominated film "Raise the Red Lantern" has won a major Asian literary prize with his latest novel, set during the Cultural Revolution, organisers said Tuesday.

Su Tong's "The Boat to Redemption" was awarded the third-annual Man Asian Literary Prize, which is open to novels from the region that have not yet been published in English.

The story is about a Communist Party official forced to make a new life among a community of boat people after being banished from the Party at the end of the tumultuous Cultural Revolution in the 1960s-70s.

The panel of judges, which included Irish novelist Colm Toibin, described Su's work as a "picaresque novel of immense charm".

"It is a story about obsessive love, the story of the relationship between a father and a son, and a story about the revolutionary impulse," the judges said in a statement.

"It is also a political fable with an edge which is both comic and tragic, and a parable about the journeys we take in our lives, the distance between the boat of our desires and the dry land of our achievement."

Su received 10,000 US dollars at a celebratory dinner held in Hong Kong late Monday.

The writer's best-known work is the novella "Wives and Concubines", which was made into the film "Raise the Red Lantern", directed by China's most prominent filmmaker Zhang Yimou and starring actress Gong Li.

He has also published six novels and more than 120 short stories.

Su's work beat competition from Filipino author Eric Gamalinda for "Day Scholar", and three Indian writers - Omair Ahmad for "Jimmy the Terrorist", Siddharth Chowdhury for "The Descartes Highlands", and Nitasha Kaul for "Residue".

The prize is backed by the company that sponsors Britain's prestigious Booker Prize.

The inaugural prize was awarded in 2007 to "Wolf Totem" by Jiang Rong, which was published in English in early 2008.

Filipino author Miguel Syjuco's 'Ilustrado', which won the 2008 prize, will also be published in English next year.