The 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize Long List

If travel teaches us about different cultures, then surely literature from countries we’ve never visited can serve as a guide, even create a yearning to venture, discover and understand.

The long list for the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize, announced in Singapore late in October, presents such an opportunity with 12 novels from countries like Iran and Pakistan that may be difficult to travel to and from Bangladesh, South Korea, China, Japan and India.

Thanks to the stunning descriptions of the novels and short bios of their authors on the Man Asian website, I’ve added The Sly Company of People Who Care by Rahul Bhattacharya (India), The Colonel by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi (Iran), 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (Japan), and Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin (South Korea) to my must-read list. I’m pretty sure these will be the first books I’ve ever read by an Iranian or South Korean author, and now that I’ve discovered the Man Asian prize, I look forward to many more.

Founded in 2007, the Man Asian prize is awarded to an Asian writer whose work is in English or has been translated into English. The short list will be announced in January, with the winner selected in March.

The Man Asian Literary Prize website also includes a video with one of the three judges, Vikas Swarup, author of Q&A, discussing the process of selecting the long list. (You may want to jump ahead to 3:17 on the video if you’ve already seen the list.)

Swarup called the judging – with author Chang-rae Lee and chair Razia Iqbal – “painless…collaborative…exciting,” which bodes well after some of the silliness surrounding this year’s Man Booker prize judging process.

Which books intrigue you on the Man Asian list?

You can follow the Man Asian Literary Prize selection process via Twitter @MALPrize.