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Man Booker International Prize 2011 archives - Su Tong

Man Booker International Prize 2011 archives - Su Tong

This was originally posted in April 2011.

“I am first and foremost a novelist”

MBI: This is the first time you've been nominated for the Man Booker International Prize although you have won a long list of literary awards. How important are literary prizes to you and are you pleased to see your body of work praised by the Man Booker judges?

ST: I'm very happy to have been nominated for the Man Booker International Prize. The winners and nominees of this prize in the past have all been extremely talented writers, so I feel very proud to be included on this list. Not to be modest, I never thought that I would be nominated by the judges, because I thought all the English version of my work rested in dusty shelves in bookstores and libraries. Although literary prizes aren't the only way to evaluate a writer's worth, it represents the welcomed clapping sound from the industry. I don't think that the actual prize is very important, but I have to admit, I like to hear the clapping sounds.

MBI: You've been heralded as one of China's most pioneering novelists. Has being a fiction writer in China changed a lot since you first started writing?

ST: Perhaps how my literature is viewed has changed, from pioneering to traditional. But in my heart nothing changed drastically. As a Chinese novelist, I am first and foremost a novelist, and then Chinese. I care for my time period, my country, my father and countrymen. I've always wanted to be independent in my creative energy, patiently enlarging my imaginary and gigantic story world.

MBI: Could you tell us a bit more about the translation process of your work - do you normally work with the same translators?

ST: Most of my novels have been translated into English by Mr. Howard Goldblatt. Usually the translation process is communicated via emails. An interesting thing that happened is when Mr. Goldblatt was translating Boat to Redemption, there was the issue of the Buo Boat. I used a pen to draw this flat boat in Southern China and faxed it to him, it's my only art work since adulthood. I've always felt gratitude towards Mr. Goldblatt, for he helped me the most to make my work assessable in the English Speaking world.

MBI: Wives and Concubines in the West (1990) was adapted into the film, Raise the Red Lantern (Dir. Zhang Yimou). Were you involved in the scriptwriting for this film and, if so, how was that process?

ST: I did not work on the screenplay for the movie Raise the Red Lantern, because director Zhang Yimo didn't invite me at the time.

MBI: What fiction are you reading at the moment? Are there any Chinese writers who would like to see find a wider audience?

ST: Currently I'm reading Australian author Coetzee's Inner Life. I would very much like to see more Chinese authors like Mo Yan, Yu Hua, and Wang An Yi gain a wider international readership, they are all fantastic Chinese authors.

MBI: What are you working on at the moment - can you give us any insight into any forthcoming projects?

ST: Recently I've been writing a novel, the process has been slow.

Su Tong, The Man Booker International Prize 2011