Jeet Thayil’s remarkable fictional debut begins with a single hallucinatory sentence stretching over six-and-a-half pages, viewing the world through an opium haze
Indian author Jeet Thayil’s debut novel “Narcopolis” is among five other works shortlisted on Wednesday for the USD 30,000 Man Asian Literary Prize.
The five novels showcasing the diversity and depth of writing from Istanbul to Tokyo were announced in Hong Kong, listing distinctive and celebrated writers for the first time in a region-wide context.
The shortlist, which includes writers from five different countries, champions a debut novelist alongside a Nobel laureate, translated work as well as original writing in English, and includes smaller regional publishers as well as larger international houses.
The other shortlisted novels, selected from a longlist of 15, are “Between Clay and Dust” by Musharraf Ali Farooqi (Pakistan), “The Briefcase” by Hiromi Kawakami (Japan), “Silent House” by Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk (Turkey) and “The Garden of Evening Mists” by Tan Twan Eng of Malaysia.
The winner will be announced on March 14 in Hong Kong, the home of the prize. Last year’s winner, “Please Look After Mom” by South Korean writer Kyung-sook Shin has gone on to sell over 2 million copies worldwide.
The jury was headed by literary critic-journalist Maya Jaggi and included Vietnamese-American novelist Monique Truong and novelist Vikram Chandra.
Kerala-born Thayil is a performance poet, songwriter and guitarist, and has published four collections of poetry. “Narcopolis” was shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
Jaggi said of “Narcopolis”, “The poet Jeet Thayil’s remarkable fictional debut begins with a single hallucinatory sentence stretching over six-and-a-half pages, viewing the world through an opium haze.
“In ‘Narcopolis’, set in an old Bombay underworld of gangsters and eunuchs, pimps and pushers, with an interlude following the pipe back to Mao’s China, the opium den is revealed as a microcosm of a city in transformation, where opium is ceding ground to heroin, and the pipe itself is a teller of tales. This is a stylistic tour de force with great originality.” She said
David Parker, executive director of the Asian Literary Prize, the organising body of the award, said, “Several of these writers have been celebrated in their own countries and recognised internationally, but never before have we viewed them collectively as Asian writers. The Man Asian Literary Prize is the only award that places Asian authors from across the whole breadth of the region side by side and gives readers a fresh perspective on the best fiction from our part of the world.”