Shadow man Asian


It is our great pleasure to announce the winner of the Shadow Jury’s Man Asian Literary Prize for 2012.

The four-member Shadow Jury has chosen Narcopolis, by Jeet Thayil.


Described variously by the members of the jury as a “strangely compelling” and “utterly, compellingly addictive” novel that “marries a beautiful prose style with some deeply unbeautiful subject matter”, this novel could not be further apart from our winner last year, Please Look After Mother, by Kyung-sook Shin. The fact that such different novels can win the same prize is a testament to the breadth and depth of Asian writing uncovered by the Man Asian Literary Prize. Full reviews of the novel are available at each participating blog.

If Narcopolis wins the Man Asian Literary Prize, it will be the first debut novel to do so under the new rules introduced in 2010.

The Shadow Man Asian Literary Prize Jury was formed in 2010 to promote the Man Asian Literary Prize throughout the world. It comprises four bloggers: Matthew Todd (, Lisa Hill (, Mark Staniforth ( and Stu Allen ( In its first year, it correctly picked the winner of the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize, Please Look After Mother, by Kyung-sook Shin.

The Man Asian Literary Prize began in 2007 as a prize for unpublished manuscripts, though was revamped in 2010 to recognise the best Asian novel each year. The official Man Asian Literary Prize winner for 2012 will be announced in Hong Kong on Thursday 14 March 2013.

Nacropolis by Jeet Thayil


Nacropolis by Jeet Thayil

Indian fiction

Source – Library copy

Jeet Thayil is from Kerala in India ,he is the son of a well-known editor .This meant he grew up in Hong-Kong and New york .He has a degree in Fine art ,he has written Poetry ,librettist and now a writer Nacropolis is his Début Novel .The book was shortlist for the Man booker prize this year and also I m reviewing it as the last of this year’s Man Asian short list .The book also recently won the DSC prize for south-east Asian  Literature .

Bombay ,which obliterated its own history by changing its name and surgically altering its face ,is the hero or heroin of this story ,and since I’m the one who’s telling it and you don’t know who I am ,let me say that we’ll get to who of it but not right now ,because now there’s time  enough not to hurry ,to light the lamp and open the window to the moon and take a moment to dream of a great and broken city .

The opening prologue of the book .

Nacropolis is set in the 70’s and 80’s ,the book is set in a darker and old Bombay ,than I have met in Indian fiction before .This book is a story of drugs and that city how drugs effect the everyday life of a group of people over twenty year .The group we meet are all connected in some way to Rashid’s opium house on a street in Bombay .The people living in this book are the short of mish mash of characters and show that drugs can effect one and all .,Dimple a castrated prostitute who has been at Rashid’s since she was a girl .The book in a way shows her journey and the changing face of drug taking within India from opium to heroin . We also see China a bit as well as one of the regulars is from China and we learn about the communists taking of China in flashback  .Thayil used his own experiences to build this book .This is the story of the real city of Bombay before it changed and became a new city .

I went back the next day and found Rashid in his room ,sitting in his chair by the window with prayer beads in his hands .I asked if he was feeling better .

I’ll never be good or better .I’m past the age of it ,Now there’s only bad or worse

I said I had come to pay my respects

Rashid said ,”I’m an old man . I don’t want talk about the o,ld days ” but he brought it up himself .

The end of the story as Rashid house is gone and the city is changing

I found this book dizzying at times Thayil is a very frank writer ,this isn’t drugs dressed up and beautified ,no Thayil is a former drug addict and has used this book to show the harm drugs do to people .As much as in place it is horrifying in others it is touching it is like watching a car crash in slow motion you want to look away but can’t as you are transfixed by the action .Thayil has done for Indian drug culture and opening it up for what it is ,the same as Irvine Welsh ,William Burroughs ,Robert Bolano and numerous other writers ,the more you read about drug taking you see that if it Edinburgh ,,Mexico city or Bombay the fallout from taking drugs is just the same .Thayil,has said in interview he wants this to be a view of addicts that makes people have empathy with them for being real people .

Have you read this book ?

What did you think of the books on this years Man Asian shortlist ?

Silent House by Orhan Pamuk


Silent House by Orhan Pamuk

Turkish Fiction

Original title Sessiz Ev

Translator Robert Finn

Source – Personnel copy

Well I ve read four Pamuk Novels before this one and as is the case in the world of translation ,I’ve read them out-of-order of publications in Turkish I start with my name is read followed by Snow then Back to an earlier book Whit Castle ,then his latest the Museum of Innocence.Now this has arrived in English and was the second novel written by Orhan Pamuk , but is the ninth to be published in English and the first to be translated by Robert Finn .I have previously mention a lot about Pamuk in the other books I reviewed ,he is Turkeys best known writer and has won the Nobel prize for literature .This book is a double hit for me as it is the fourth from the Man Asian Short-list I ‘ve read but also the tenth book I ve reviewed from this year’s independent foreign fiction prize .

But tomorrow they’ll come and I’ll think again . Hello ,hello how are you ,they’ll kiss my hand ,many happy returns ,how are you ,Grandmother ,how are you ,how are you , Grandmother ? I’ll take a look at them .Don’t all talk at once ,come here let me have a look at you ,come close ,tell me what you have been doing ? I know I’ll be asking to be fooled and I’ll listen blankly to a few words of description!

Fatima the night before the hoards descend on here

So Silent House well the title is a bit of joke because this is anything but a book about silence or a silent house .The book is set in the early eighties a turbulent time in Turkey and we are with Fatima and yes at start as she await the hoards to descend (her extended family of grandchildren to arrive for the summer ).The family arrive one by one and each member of the family is like a jigsaw piece as they arrive we learn a bit more about the family ,but also about turkey as a whole as each one of her grandchildren represent a different face of turkey Faruk is the idealist a troubled historian ,the sister Nilgun that is part of a new elite in turkey with money ,a drop-out ,a right-winger ,As they arrive the hose becomes very vocal and the house becomes a micro version of The turkey of the time .The book is set in 1980 just a coup is in the offering .

It’s well after midnight ,but I can still hear them moving about what could they be doing down there ,why don’t they go to sleep and leave me the silent night ? I get out of bed ,walk over to the window ,and look down :Recap’s ;light is still on ,lighting up the garden:what are you doing there ,dwarf ? It’s frighting ! he’s so sneaky ,that one every once in a while I catch him giving me a look ,and I realize he notices everything about me , watching the smallest gestures ,

The house is loud and what does Recap the dwarf know ?

Where does this lie in the body of Pamuk’s work ,well it is very different as one would imagine with a second novel .The book is a book of voices but also a clever way of discussing the turkey of the time without Pamuk using his own voice as he uses the myriad of character in this book to show the troubles with in his own country ,but also to show how these troubles affect people on a personal every day level .The children also in there own ways show how politics effect people in different way , burying your head in the bottle ,being to rich too notice troubles ,joining a gang of fascists and following the latest causes .Then there is Fatima her self the sort of women that runs a large family in her ninties but has the respect of all and she also has a dwarf servant Recap .I did enjoy this more than I have recent Pamuk novels .Now the question is would this have been better published at the time ,part of me thinks yes then another part thinks it is still happening turkey is still a country with many faces and problems of its own and the book still shows how far they have come and how far they have to go .

Have you read this book ?

Do you have a favourite Orhan Pamuk ? mine is my name is red

The Briefcase by Hiromi Kawakami

the briefcase

The Briefcase by Hiromi Kawakami

Japanese fiction

Original title – Sensei no Kaban

Translator Alison Martin Powell

Source – personnel copy

Well the last of the Japanese books for this month and it is one from this years Man Asian prize shortlist .Tony asked us all to post at the end of the month thankfully my copy arrived yesterday ,so I managed to read it overnight .Hiromi Kawakami is a graduate of Ochanomizu women’s college ,she published her first book in 1980 ,with her previous books she has won a number of prizes .This book won the prestigious Tanizaki prize in 2001 previous winners include Ryu Murakami ,Yoko Ogawa and Kenzaburo Oe .

His full name was Mr Harutsuna Matsumoto ,but I called him “Sensei “not “Mr ” or “Sir ” just ” Sensei ”

He was my Japanese teacher in High school .He wasn’t my homeroom teacher ,and Japanese class didn’t interest me much ,so I didn’t really remember him .Since graduation ,I hadn’t seen him for quite a while

Tsukiko saying why she calls him Sensei at the start of the book

The Briefcase or bag of Sensei is a love story .It was published in its native Japan as a serial so its chapters are short and tend to leave you wanting to read the next chapter .The story is the story of The sensei (Japanese for teacher ) and Tsukiko a former pupil of the Sensei who is now in her thirties ,the sensei is retired .The pair meet in a traditional Japanese bar .As the relation ship develops you see them doing many things such as watching the cherry blossom falling of the trees ,picking mushrooms and visiting an Island for a weekend away .This being Japan this very unusual relationship isn’t all about your full-blown passion, no it is more two lonely souls in the sea that is Tokyo that have end up being drawn together ,The sensei is like you would expect a very quiet man but he has the air of some one deep in thought and serious with it .Tsukiko is hard to read but he admiration and love for this older man seems unwavering and maybe you feel she has had her heart-broken in the past by a younger man .

“Sensei ,your is the special ,right ? ”

“that’s what they call it ”

“how is it different from the regular ”

We both bent our heads and examined the two boxed lunches .

“There doesn’t seem to be much difference at all” the Sensei said Amiably

They have lunch and compare lunches a humorousness moment .


This is a book that has been made into a Japanese tv series and a stage show A quick search of the internet ,I found a clip showing pics from the stage show .I was reminded of a UK TV series called may to December that was shown in the uk when I was growing up it involved a couple of similar age gap to the couple in the briefcase and actually similar characters to this book .The action was the same on the surface we seem different cultures but as may to December showed it was all about the being together more than the sex and the way the relationship develop was so well done by Kawakami like a time elapse picture capture the relationship stage by stage .Some wonderful moments of humur Tsukiko buying a grater for sensei when it appeared they’d fallen out or compare her normal packed lunch brought from the shop to his special of the same dish and deciding they were actually the same .The fact it was as a serial works well for this story I felt and didn’t feel uneven as sometimes novels made up of serial parts can.

Have you read this book ?

Between Clay and Dust by Musharraf Ali Farooqi


Between Clay and Dust by Musharraf Ali Farooqi

Pakistan fiction

Musharraf Ali Farooqi is a Pakistani  -Canadian writer ,he briefly studied  engineering at university before turning to writing .He has so far published five novels and some children’s fiction ,one of his previous novels was shortlisted for the south Asian DSC prize and longlist for prestigious Impac prize .He spends his time between Canada and Pakistan ,he is also a translator of books from Urdu to english and is working on an online collection of Urdu Fiction and literature .

Ustad Ramzi was the head of a Pahlwan clan and the custodian of a wrestler’s akhara .He was a man of frugal speech and austere habits and appeared to some a stern man .His imposing stature .a heavy set jaw ,and upturned whiskers only reinforced this impression .He was one of those men who do not accept the futility and emptiness of life ,but who try continuously to give it meaning

Ustad described ,he is one proud chap .

So this was one of the writers that was new to me from this years longlist for the man asian and I may say the biggest surprise for on the surface a novel about wrestling didn’t really appeal .But no this is a great book in fact over christmas I called in my undiscovered Gem of the year .So the book it focus on two brothers Ustad Ramzi and his younger brother Tamami now Ustad is the best wrestler of his time and at his base ,called a Akhari ,he is joined by young men hoping to gleam the knowledge of the master .Now the younger brother is forgotten and considered maybe a bit of a loser and a burden by his older brother .That is part of the book the story of the brothers the other is a challenger to Ustad from another wrestler called Goher Jan he is younger than Ustad and is want Ustad’s postion of respect .A futher strand is to do with the changing face of the place new building old friends leaving and promoters getting involved in the wrestling scene .So as you see this has it all sporting drama ,family saga and commentary on the changing face of Pakistan society not bad for a book of just 212 pages .To find out what happens I suggest you buy it !


During the exhibition bout Ustad Ramzi observed Tamami prolonging the fight with Sher Ali .He angrily left the Akhara when he realized Tamami was doing something he  had expressly forbidden him to do .the trainees followed him .

Ustad sees his brother wrestle and get better but at what cost !

Now I have always been wary of sports related novels as I felt in the past some just don’t catch the feel of the sport or maybe the sport is just a small by line in the story and I ve been disappointed .But this book took a sport that I don’t watch these days I did grow up watch on a Saturday  the rather  they would overact and the action was quite tame at time professional wrestling on British TV in my youth with over the top character like Giant Haystacks and Big daddy .Well these guys in this book are serious about their wrestling  and train hard and take real pride in what they do .For them to be the best is to earn honour and a place with in the community around them  .Also this is a book about family but  brothers in particular  and the thing about one being a success and the other maybe not having it and being over shadow at times this is like something from Greek myths or classic literature .I do hope this finds a UK publisher as is a positive view of life in Pakistan and would maybe break down people ideas of the country .

Do you have a favourite sport based novel ?


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