The Lu Xun Literary Prize, awarded every three years by the Chinese Writers’ Association, announced its latest group of laureates last night.
The prize is given to five works in each of several categories: novellas, short stories, reportage, poetry, essays, theory, and translation.
For the first time in the history of the prize, the translation category was vacant. According to the Beijing Youth Daily, preliminary judging in September resulted in a list of twenty works from each category. However, out of forty translated titles submitted, just five made it past the first round: To Axion Esti by Odysseas Elytis, translated by Liu Ruihong (刘瑞洪); Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, translated by Zhang Wenyu and Huang Xiangrong (张文宇, 黄向荣); Travels With Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski, translated by Wu Lan (乌兰); The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud, translated by Liu Shicong (刘士聪); A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amoz Oz, translated by Zhong Zhiqing (钟志清).
CWA spokesperson Chen Qirong described the situation to Sina’s book channel:
Chen Qirong said that this year’s works were fairly high in quality, showing the development of the authors’ creative ideas, and demonstrated a spirit of keeping pace with the times. However, the judges carefully read over and repeatedly discussed the five nominated works in the translation category and felt that they did not reach an award-winning level. Ultimately, the committee upheld the high standards of the Lu Xun Prize, leading to the vacancy.
A full winners’ list is available at the Chinese Writers’ Association website.
This year’s controversial winner is Che Yangao (车延高), a member of the Wuhan municipal committee and the secretary of the city’s Discipline and Inspection Committee. He began writing poetry in his spare time in 2005 and was awarded this year’s Lu Xun Prize for his collection Yearning for Warmth (向往温暖).
Che posts some of his poetry to his personal blog, which is where Internet users discovered his paeans to Wuhan actresses like Xu Fan and Liu Yifei. These lines are being quoted and mocked on microblogs today:
I once left a comment on her blog
Child, when you return to Wuhan remember to look me up
Chen explained these poems in an interview with Sina:
The poem “Xu Fan” was one of a series I wrote for a column in Great Wuhan magazine. There were three poems altogether, describing three Wuhan actors: Xu Fan, Xie Fang, and Liu Yifei. I wrote these three poems in a colloquial style and aimed for zero sentimentality, no personal emotion whatsoever, and to give the characters flesh and blood through natural descriptions, pulling them closer to ordinary people. These three poems were an experiment; I feel that literary works ought to make all sorts of artistic experiments and explorations.
The reaction to Che’s Lu Xun win recalls the furor over Zhao Lihua’s “pear blossom poetry” in 2006.
- Chinese Writers’ Association (Chinese): Fifth Lu Xun Literary Prize (2007-2009) Award List, Chen Qirong discusses Lu Xun Literary Prize
- Beijing Youth Daily (Chinese): Prize for translated literature vacant
- Sina (Chinese): Che Yangao wins Lu Xun Prize; “Xu Fan” ignites controversy
- Che Yangao’s blog (Chinese): Three Wuhan Women who Light up the Screen: Xie Fang, Liu Yifei, Xu Fan
- Image via CNArts: Modern medals exhibition
- Earlier on Danwei: Let’s all write poetry! — the Zhao Lihua affair