Man Asian SU Tong

Su Tong was born in 1963 in Suzhou and now lives in Beijing with his family. He is one of China’s most celebrated bestselling authors, shooting to international fame in 1993 when Zhang Yimou’s film of his novella Raise the Red Lantern was nominated for an Oscar. His first short story collection, Madwoman on the Bridge was published by Black Swan in 2008. Translator Howard Goldblatt is Research Professor at the University of Notre Dame. He is the recipient of two translation fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and has been awarded the Translation of the Year Prize from the American Literary Translators Association and the Man Asian Literary Prize. 

The panel of judges for the 2009 prize praised the winning novel:

“The Boat to Redemption by Su Tong is a picaresque novel of immense charm. It is a story about obsessive love, the story of the relationship between a father and a son, and a story about the revolutionary impulse. It is also a political fable with an edge which is both comic and tragic, and a parable about the journeys we take in our lives, the distance between the boat of our desires and the dry land of our achievement.”

The distinguished panel of judges for the 2009 Prize includes Colm Tóibín, author Gish Jen and Pankaj Mishra.

Boat to redemption Cover


In The Boat to Redemption disgraced Secretary Ku has been banished from the Party – it has been officially proved he does not have a fish-shaped birthmark on his bottom and is therefore not the son of a revolutionary martyr, but the issue of a river pirate and a prostitute. Mocked by the citizens of Milltown, Secretary Ku leaves the shore for a new life among the boat people on a fleet of industrial barges. Refusing to renounce his high status, he maintains a distance – with Dongliang, his teenage son – from the gossipy lowlifes who surround him. One day a feral little girl, Huixian, arrives looking for her mother, who has jumped to her death in the river. The boat people, and especially Dongliang, take her to their hearts. But Huixian sows conflict wherever she goes, and soon Dongliang is in the grip of an obsession for her. He takes on Life, Fate and the Party in the only way he knows.


‘Powerful and elegant …the world he so vividly depicts has the timelessness of a classical Chinese court painting’ —Independent

‘What I admire most is Su Tong’s style…His strokes are restrained but merciless. He is a true literary talent’
—Anchee Min

Twists, turns and tragedies hold the reader’s attention right to the end. The writing is superb, the word pictures of the river and its people memorable.
— Sunday Express