A former editor of Vancouver's Ricepaper magazine has made the longlist for one of literature's most treasured honours.
Madeleine Thien has been nominated for the Man Booker Prize for her most recent novel, Do Not Say We Have Nothing. It focuses on three musicians and their families who lived through tumultuous times in 20th-century China, including the Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen Square massacre.
In June, Thien told the Georgia Straight that the 1989 student uprising in Beijing has captivated her since she was a teenager.
“I think in all these years since, 27 years now, it’s been a topic that I’ve returned again and again to in my interests," Thien told Straight contributor David Chau. "But it’s only in the last five or six years that I thought I was ready to write about it.”
Chau noted in his article that Do Not Say We Have Nothing has a Vancouver connection: one of the characters is an SFU mathematician named Marie Jiang who recalls a Chinese dissident staying in her home many years earlier.
Thien was born and raised in Vancouver and lives in Montreal. She was the writer in residence at SFU in 2013-14.
Her 2006 debut novel, Certainty, won Canada's First Novel Award from Amazon.ca/Books in Canada. Her 2011 novel Dogs at the Perimeter focused on the Cambodian genocide. It was a finalist for the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction. She also wrote a collection of stories, Simple Recipes, which was published in 2001.
In 2013, Thien caused a stir at the literASIAN Festival in Vancouver by questioning why few writers of colour win major literary prizes in Canada.
"I've seen this on the prize juries and on the grant juries on which I've served," Thien said at a banquet at the Pink Pearl Chinese Seafood Restaurant. "And each time I've seen it, I've told myself that it was just an anomaly. It is only now, after more than 10 years of seeing this pattern, that I feel confident in saying that it is not an anomaly, but a fixed pattern that is very difficult to shift."
Thien is one of two Canadians on the longlist of 13 nominees for the Man Booker Prize. The other is David Szalay, a dual citizen of Canada and the United Kingdom, who was nominated for All That Man Is.
They're up against South African Nobel Prize winner and two-time Booker Prize winner J.M. Coetzee. Other nominees are Deborah Levy, A.L. Kennedy, Elizabeth Strout, David Means, Ottessa Moshfegh, Virginia Reeves, Graeme Macrae Burnet, Wyl Menmuir, Paul Beatty, and Ian McGuire.
The four members of the jury are Jon Day, Abdulrazak Gurnah, David Harsent, and Olivia Williams and the winner will be announced on October 25. The Man Booker Prize comes with a £50,000 award (CDN$86,483).
Last year's winner was Jamaican novelist Marlon James.