The Man Booker International Prize is one of the most prestigious literary awards in the world and has been awarded to the likes of Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, and Hilary Mantel. A major controversy has now stirred after the organisation changed the nationality of a Taiwanese nominee to “Taiwan, China,” following pressure from the Chinese embassy in London.
The Chinese government believes the island of Taiwan is part of China’s territory and wants to see the country brought into the fold, by force if necessary. China has since been undermining and excluding Taiwan on the global forum in order to quell ideas that it is its own country. Many Taiwan’s 23 million citizens reject China’s claim and the country has its own government, military, and foreign policy.
Author Professor Wu has been nominated for this year’s Man Booker Prize for his novel The Stolen Bicycle, a book about the Taiwanese 20th-century history. He personally considers himself Taiwanese rather than Chinese. Last week, Professor Wu criticised Man Booker for caving in to pressure from Beijing and said: “Since the publication of the longlist for this year’s Man Booker International award, my nationality on the webpage has been changed from Taiwan to Taiwan, China, which is not my personal position on this issue. I will therefore seek assistance in expressing my personal position to the award organisation.”
Wu has faced severe criticism from China for his stance and, after stating that he was honored to be listed as Taiwanese rather than Chinese. “We should join together and ban his books from being sold on the mainland because his stance differs from that of 1.3 billion Chinese people,” said one user on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.
Another said: “It looks like we will have to establish a blacklist of people seeking Taiwan independence to completely eliminate their connection with the mainland.”
Lin Hsui-mei, Wu’s editor, has backed his client’s stance and stated that politics should not influence decisions to honour artists. The Taiwanese government has also criticised China’s demands. The foreign ministry has issued a complaint and has instructed its representatives in London to demand a “correction”.
As The Telegraph reports, Man Booker has explained its actions, saying: “We are currently seeking clarification from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the UK’s official position on Taiwan following earlier advice that ‘Taiwan, China’ was the correct, politically neutral form,” said spokesperson, Truda Spruyt.
“We are aware that Wu Ming-yi defines himself as Taiwanese and have kept him informed throughout the process.” Ms Spruyt clarified that the Man Group, which sponsors the prize, and also has business interests in China, was “not involved in the decision.”
This is not the first time tension between China and other territories has caused controversy. Mercedes Benz once apologised for offending the Chinese after its Instagram account quoted the Dalai Lama, who is seen as an enemy by China for opposing the government’s occupation of Tibet. Ross Feingold, a Taipei-based lawyer and analyst, stated that organisations ought not give in to China’s demands, saying: “People from Taiwan have been awarded international prizes simply being identified as ‘Taiwan’ so arguably it’s an overreach when organisations feel compelled to add ‘province of China’.”
This year’s winners have been announced by Poets & Writers, and the well-deserving recipients of the 2019 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award are:
Reginald Dwayne Betts – “for mentoring individuals involved in the criminal and juvenile justice systems and for his efforts to reform these systems.”
Reginald Dwayne Betts writes memoirs and poetry. His most recent collection of poetry, Bastards of the Reagan Era, won the 2016 PEN New England Award in Poetry. While his memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival and Coming of Age in Prison, is just the beginning of his campaigning to reform the criminal justice system in the UK. He has also made numerous visits to prisons and juvenile detention centres, where he shares his poetry and talks about the power of reading, literacy and mentoring those in incarceration.
This week the 2018 winners were announced and it’s a pretty exciting list! The overall winner is Adam Kay for his book listed below, all the category winners can also be found on the list below.
Costa First Novel Award Winner
The Seven Death of Evelyn Hardcastle is the début novel of Stuart Turton. The book’s plot surrounds poor Evelyn who is murdered again and again, and Aiden Bishop is always too late to save her. Each day, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest, from the party where Evelyn is first killed, but someone is determined to stop him escaping this daily routine. The only way to break this never-ending cycle is to solve the mystery of her killer.
The author himself is an English and Philosophy graduate who worked in a Darwin Bookshop, taught English in Shanghai, has written technology articles for a magazine and travel articles in Dubai. Now Turton lives in London and works as a freelance journalist.
With such a strong background in writing, it is no surprise that his first novel should receive such high praise, winning Netgalley’s Book of the Year 2018, the Books Are My Bag Readers Award for Best Novel and now, the Costa First Novel Award.
What the judges said: “This ingenious, intriguing and highly original mindbender of a murder mystery gripped us all. We were all stunned that this exciting and accomplished novel, planned and plotted perfectly, is a debut. Fresh, enticing and completely unputdownable.” Read More
This year’s entries were shortlisted to the following:
The all-male group nominated for their strange or gross depictions of sex included Gerard Woodward, William Wall, James Frey, and a particularly rapey scene written by Haruki Murakami (dude, gross, don’t do that).
The winner was announced at a lavish ceremony hosted by retro pop star Kim Wilde at the In & Out (Naval & Military) Club in London.
James Frey and his book Katerina won with his awkward and cringe-worthy passage describing… Well, you know.
Last year’s winner was Christopher Bollen, an American novelist whose passage describing the protagonist’s love interest is both weird and utterly unsexy:
“She covers her breasts with her swimsuit. The rest of her remains so delectably exposed. The skin along her arms and shoulders are different shades of tan like water stains in a bathtub. Her face and vagina are competing for my attention, so I glance down at the billiard rack of my penis and testicles.”