IT’S TRUE. I checked. The Man Booker sponsor is dropping its involvement with the Asian sister prize. This is a blow, especially for me, as a sort of mid-wife in its early stages. It also kills the name.
Rather than just rehash someone else’s news, here’s the official statement.
Here (below) is the only news item I can find so far. (Thanks to Ben for forwarding this to me.)
MAN BOOKER SPONSOR PULLS OUT OF ASIAN BOOK AWARD
HONG KONG, 18 OCTOBER 2012: The backers of one of Asia’s top literary prizes has withdrawn its support. The Man Group, sponsors of the Man Booker Prize, is discontinuing its sponsorship, award organizers admitted today in a statement.
Organizers are scrambling to find new funders. The longlist for the latest award is due to be announced on December 4 and the latest winner in March 2013.
Authors expressed shock. But the prize has long attracted more than its fair share of controversy. There was anger when the award, designed for new Asian authors, changed its rules to accept only writers with recognized publishers, giving a huge boost to the Western companies which dominate the global book trade.
There have been claims of cultural insensitivity too. While the majority of entrants have been from South Asia, all winners in the history of the prize have inexplicably been from East Asia, leading to suggestions that the administration, led by Western expatriates, might be more interested in the richer parts of Asia.
The project got the green light in 2006 after a long campaign led by Sri Lankan author Nury Vittachi. But he was removed from the project, leaving no Asians among judges or administrators.
Who dropped the ball? Fingers are likely to be pointed at executive director David Parker. Under his watch, the Hong Kong International Literary Festival, once a leading conference in the region, lost its key sponsors and has been dramatically overtaken in influence by other Asia-based writers’ gatherings, including festivals in Jaipur, Ubud and Shanghai.
And now the loss of the Man Group from the prize which carries its name coincides with the expansion of rival prizes in the region. Last week the DSC Prize, associated with the Jaipur Literature Festival (now Asia’s biggest), garnered a lot of attention for its latest shortlist, featuring South Asian authors. The region’s biggest umbrella group for authors, AP Writers, is holding its annual conference in Bangkok in November in conjunction with SEAWrite, the South East Asian Writers Awards. In the Philippines, the organizers of the Magsaysay Award, with its 54-year history and long list of worth winners, including Mother Theresa and Muhammad Yunus, are looking to reinvigorate their prize.
Mr Parker issued a statement saying that they had begun a search for potential new sponsors. But the truth is, for literary organizations in the most populous region of the world, the field has suddenly been blown wide open.
For writers in Asia, a new chapter is about to be written.
If Mikkel Pedersen is reading this, can you send me an email – address at the top right. Thanks.