Indonesian author wins World Readers’ Award
A DARK AND EDGY novel from Jakarta has won the inaugural World Readers’ Award for author Eka Kurniawan.
The 40-year-old Indonesian author took the award with Beauty is a Wound, an extraordinary work that grips you from its electrifying first line:
“One afternoon on a weekend in March, Dewi Ayu rose from her grave after being dead for 21 years.”
A young writer, Gabrielle Mei Ying Tse, aged 16, won the Young Writer of the Year award at the same ceremony for her complex, multi-level short story, Terracotta.
Other young authors collected prizes for poetry, digital storytelling and creative non-fiction—and many brought their parents and teachers with them to share their moment in the spotlight. More than 90o entries were received.
“Today we declare war on any suggestion that people on the Eastern side of the planet cannot be richly, powerfully, delightfully creative in the world of literature,” said prize chairman Nury Vittachi.
The prizes were presented today (March 22, 2016) inside a giant golden egg in front of hundreds of people. The event was sponsored by the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation to emphasize that innovation is not about machines but about human creativity.
The futuristic venue in Hong Kong contrasted dramatically with the Indonesian village life presented in the winning book, showing the breadth of ways people live in modern Asia.
“Here I am, speaking softly from a country named Indonesia, in the midst of clamorous world,” said Eka Kurniawan, in a statement delivered to the event from his home in Jakarta. He described himself as “happy, humbled and honored”.
The judges also paid tribute to his translator, Annie Tucker. Beauty is a Wound was actually first published in Bahasa Indonesian as Cantik Itu Luka. Ms Tucker described the book in a statement published by Pen America as “a distinctive West Javanese voice that will feel fresh and new to readers, evoking multiple local influences including the bawdy wit and epic scope of wayang theater; the folk tales for which the region is famous; and Indonesian horror and martial arts genre fiction.”
The organizers chose the sci-fi venue to make the point that the creation of imaginative entertainment is not a dying art but the opposite: cultural industries are growing faster than many other sectors.
Furthermore, the meeting heard that the majority (more than 90 per cent) of top movie franchises could be traced back to printed fiction. Even top computer games such as Assassin’s Creed started as books.
“Humanity’s greatest scientific resources are not test tubes and silicon chips, but the incredible power of the human mind,” said Science Park chief Allen Ma. “As Einstein loved to say, imagination is more important than knowledge.”
The World Readers’ Award was coordinated by volunteers from the Asia Pacific Writers’ and Translators’ Association, working with PPP, a publishing company and prize organizer in Hong Kong. The young writers awards were arranged through the Hong Kong Young Writers’ Award team: the award, although originally designed for Hong Kong schools only, have become popular with entries from several countries.
Asia Pacific Writers’ and Translators’ Association can be contacted by clicking here.
PPP can be contacted by clicking here.
More information about the Hong Kong Young Writers Award can be obtained by clicking here.
Who’s behind this? We never heard of you.
The founding group is the Asia Pacific Writers’ and Translators’ Association, which is based in China and Australia. Our members come from all areas of literature, from writers to translators to publishers to literary scholars to creative writing teachers and so on. Our members range from rising stars such as Booker nominee Jeet Thayil to legendary masters such as JM Coetzee. The members who run the organization might not be so famous in the West, but are quite well known in literary circles in the Eastern side of the planet.
You’re based in China? So is censorship an issue?
No. We are mostly run from Australia and Hong Kong, both of which have strong traditions of free speech.
Why is it called the WORLD Readers’ Award when you guys are based in Asia-Pacific?
English is the world’s biggest language for books, and Asia-Pacific is the world’s biggest market for English language books. It’s also a place where the number of people who read things—books, newspapers, e-books—continues to climb steadily, to the delight of publishers everywhere. These factors and other make this a natural location for a world book award. Four billion out of the world’s seven billion people live in Asia.
Anybody can enter? I’m not sure if I really get it about the “global perspective” thing.
Put it this way. The world’s bookshops are overflowing with geopolitical thrillers set in Washington, detectives based in Scandinavia, and Western school children who discover that they are wizards, demigods, witches, etc. The vast majority of the world’s readers live outside the UK and the US. A better balance benefits everyone, from readers to publishers to the global zeitgeist.
Will it make me rich?
Get real. This is the book industry. You want money, go be a plumber or a locksmith.
Why is it a “readers” prize?
At a meeting in 2012, Asia-Pacific writers and readers said they were fed up of the fact that book prize panelists were so often dominated by specialists who chose books that only specialists of that type would want to read. So we organized a prize which involved a much wider range of people, including book readers in general — we also had a voting section in which anyone could nominate a book. We chose the winning book by consensus. This is not really a scientific method, but neither is any other way of choosing a winner.
What do you get out of it? Are you paid a fat fee?
No. We’re just a small group of people who like a good story, and think there are great storytellers everywhere, not just in the obvious places, such as the Pixar story department. We’re trying to fix this imbalance. But we are volunteers with ultra-busy day jobs, so be patient with us.
When can I enter?
Not yet, sorry. This year (2016) in March, we celebrated (scroll to the top of this page) a PUBLISHED novel written by an adult set in a “world book” location. We will also celebrated a number of youth writing prizes at the same time. We hope that this event will be well received (so far so good) and as a result, we’ll get sponsorship support to carry on for 2017 and so on. In which case, we’d like to do a prize for an UNPUBLISHED manuscript prize. Keep in touch with us — which is probably easiest to do through www.apwriters.com