A look at the the provocative Chinese writer’s Man Asian Prize winner

By Tiffany Lam

Darkly humorous, sharply controversial Chinese novelist Su Tong sealed his reputation as one of the finest wordsmiths on the mainland with a Man Asian Literary prize win for “The Boat of Redemption.”

Raise the Red Lantern


“Raise the Red Lantern,” adapted from Su’s novel “Wives and Concubines,” starred Gong Li

“The Boat of Redemption” is a bleak tale about a castrated Communist Party official who’s forced into exile with his son after bluffing about his revolutionary martyr pedigree. Set during the Cultural Revolution, the novel charts protagonist Ku Wenxuan’s struggles for redemption amid political oppression and his own suppressed sexual yearnings.

Shuzhou-born Su also made his memories of growing up near a river an integral part of the plot.

The novel is “a picaresque novel of immense charm,” according to the Man Asian jury. Su himself agreed it’s his best work yet. The author shot to literary prominence with 1989 breakout novel “Wives and Concubines,” which was the inspiration behind Zhang Yimou’s Oscar-short listed movie “Raise the Red Lantern.”

The English translation of “The Boat of Redemption” will be published this year and talks about translations in other languages are underway, the Chinese press reported.

Set up in 2007, the Man Asian literary prize is the top accolade for literature in Asia. Su is the second Chinese writer to cinch the award, the first being Jiang Rong for “Wolf Totem.”