Indians dominate Asian Booker list

New Delhi: Five novels by Indian writers including Amitav Ghosh and Tarun Tejpal figure in this year`s Man Asian Literary Prize longlist, which also has works by novelists from Bangladesh and Pakistan among other countries.

The other Indians in the fray for the award considered by many as the Asian Booker are Jahnavi Barua ("Rebirth"), Anuradha Roy ("The Folded Earth") and Rahul Bhattacharya ("The Sly Company of People Who Care"). Ghosh`s novel is "River of Smoke" and Tejpal is the author of "The Valley of Masks."

Tahmima Anam (Bangladesh, "The Good Muslim?), Jamil Ahmad (Pakistan, "The Wandering Falcon"), Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (Iran, "The Colonel"), Haruki Murakami (Japan, "1Q84"), Kyung-sook Shin (South Korea , "Please Look After Mom"), Yan Lianke (China, "Dream of Ding Village"), Banana Yoshimoto (Japan, "The Lake") complete the longlist.

Featuring works of epic proportions, the books deal with a wide range of subjects including the Opium Wars, the Iranian revolution, the rise of fundamentalism, the plight of AIDS sufferers in China as well as exploring relationships between the individual and family, parent and child.

"It was a pleasant surprise and a great honour to be included with Amitav Ghosh, Haruki Murakami, Rahul Bhattacharya and the eight other wonderful writers on the list," Bangalore-based Barua told PTI. Her novel "Rebirth" is the story of Kaberi, a young woman coming to grips with an uncertain marriage and is also an intimate portrait of the passionate bond between a mother and her unborn child.

Ninety books were submitted for entry in 2011. The shortlist will be announced on January 10, 2012 and the winner will be named on March 15 in Hong Kong, the home of the prize. The judges for this year`s prize are Pulitzer-prize finalist and author of "The Surrendered" Chang-rae Lee, Vikas Swarup, author of "Q&A" which was filmed as the Oscar-winning "Slumdog Millionaire" and BBC Special Correspondent Razia Iqbal, who is the chair judge.

"In scope, range and subject matter, our longlist presents us with the epic as well as the quotidian, the established writers as well as some on the cusp of greater success. But what connects them is a thing that happens when we read good fiction: the cumulative impact of sentence after good sentence is transforming for the reader. So, while it is hoped that the list reflects among the best of what is coming out of Asia, it also presents Asia to itself, an equally important mirror to hold up," said Iqbal.

"What this longlist shows is that if we are looking for books of the epic scale and stature of the great European nineteenth century novels, we must turn to Asia. Murakami`s massive magnum opus 1Q84 and Ghosh`s three-volume epic of the Opium Wars, of which ?River of Smoke? is the second volume, have a scale and ambition we don`t often see in Western writing these days.

"Could it be that as the world`s economic centre of gravity is moving eastwards, so too is its artistic energy and ambition," asked chair of directors of the Man Asian Literary Prize, David Parker. Bhattacharya`s "The Sly Company of People Who Care" is young journalist?s account after he decides to give up his job and travel to Guyana to escape the deadness of his life. "The Folded Earth" tells about a girl who tries to put behind her a time of great sorrow by teaching in a school during day and typing drafts of a magnum opus by her landlord at night.

Tejpal`s "The Valley of Masks" deals with the story of a physically faceless being known variously as Karna and as X470, a renegade from a mysterious brotherhood, on what he knows will be his last day alive. Anam, whose novel evoked rave reviews across the world, was in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata ea in

connection with its launch by Penguin. Her debut novel "A Golden Age" had won the Commonwealth Writers` Award for Best First Book and was short -listed for The Guardian First Book Award and the Costa First Novel Award. She lives in London and Dhaka.

Set in the dusty streets of Dhaka and the villages and river-islands of rural Bangladesh, at a time when the rise of religious fundamentalism was a whisper in the wind, "The Good Muslim" is a story of the challenges of peace in the long shadow of war.