Books

Montreal's Kim Thúy shortlisted for alternative Nobel Prize

Kim Thúy, author of Ru and Vi, has been selected from a longlist 47 writers to be a finalist for The New Prize in Literature, which was created in response to the postponement of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Kim Thúy is a Vietnamese-Canadian writer. (Penguin Random House/Benoit Levac)

Kim Thúy, author of the celebrated novels ManRu and Vi, has been shortlisted for The New Prize in Literature, an award created by Swedish librarians and members of the arts and culture community to fill the void of the 2018 Nobel Prize for literature, which was postponed after a scandal-plagued year.

The New Prize in Literature is a one-time award founded by the nonprofit The New Academy. The organization aims to raise at least 1 million kronor (approx. $149,900 Cdn) in donations for the grand prize.

A longlist of 47 esteemed authors from around the world were presented and after a global public vote, the final four has been declared. It is comprised of Thúy from Canada, Maryse Condé from the Guadeloupe and France, Haruki Murakami from Japan and Neil Gaiman from England.

Thúy was born in Vietnam in 1968 and came to Canada as a boat refugee at the age of 10. Her literature draws from her early experiences and that of other immigrants, documenting harrowing journeys west, being raised by caregivers haunted by past horrors and and the struggle of growing up in a new culture.

Thúy's book Ru won the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction in French. The English translation by Sheila Fischman was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and won Canada Reads in 2015, it was defended by TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey.

In an interview with the Canadian Press, Thú​y remarked that she was "stunned" by the news and is in awe of her fellow finalists.

"I see them as cultural icons — veteran writers — while I'm just at the beginning of this adventure," she said.

The winner will now be selected by a jury, which includes editor and independent publisher Ann Pålsson, literature professor Lisbeth Larsson, editor and independent publisher Peter Stenson and Head of Library Gunilla Sandin.

The winner will be announced on Oct. 12, 2018. After a celebration on Dec. 9, 2018, the New Academy will be dissolved.

The Nobel Prize for literature — one of the richest, most prominent literary honours in the world — was called off this year by the Swedish Academy due to an ongoing scandal involving a string of sex abuse allegations and financial conflicts of interest. It's the first time since just after the Second World War that the prize is not being awarded. 

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