Singapore author Jeremy Tiang to judge International Booker Prize

Jeremy Tiang, 44, is the first Singaporean to judge any of the Booker prizes.
Jeremy Tiang, 44, is the first Singaporean to judge any of the Booker prizes.PHOTO: JEREMY TIANG

SINGAPORE - Home-grown author and translator Jeremy Tiang was on Wednesday (July 14) named a judge of next year's International Booker Prize.

Tiang, 44, is the first Singaporean to judge any of the Booker prizes.

The International Booker Prize, unlike the Booker Prize, is awarded annually to a book translated into English and published in the United Kingdom or Ireland.

The £50,000 (S$93,600) prize is split equally between author and translator.

"It was very unexpected," says Tiang in an e-mail interview from New York, where he is based.

"I got a message from one of the organisers asking if I'd like to do it and of course I said yes. I'm thrilled and excited for all the reading and thinking that lies ahead."

He adds that his name was put forward by the jury chair, Irish translator Frank Wynne. This is the first time a translator is chairing the panel.

The other judges for the 2022 prize are British actor and television presenter Mel Giedroyc, Turkish-American academic Merve Emre and Zimbabwean lawyer and writer Petina Gappah.

Tiang says the diversity of the jury "shows a commitment to the international ethos of the prize".

He adds: "I'm glad Singapore can be part of this internationalism."

It has been a week of plaudits for Tiang, whose debut novel State Of Emergency (2017) was one of six titles shortlisted on Monday (July 12) for the $50,000 National University of Singapore's History Prize.

The novel, about leftist movements in the history of Singapore and Malaya, won the Singapore Literature Prize in 2018.

Tiang, who will be the translator-in-residence at Princeton University in the United States next spring, is now translating Singapore author Hai Fan's short story collection Delicious Hunger, as well as Cocoon, a new novel by Chinese writer Zhang Yueran.

He has also been working on a translation of The Colour Of Twilight, the last novel by Cultural Medallion recipient Yeng Pway Ngon, who died in January this year.

The International Booker Prize began its present iteration in 2016. An earlier version of the International Prize, which ran from 2005 to 2015, was awarded every two years to a living author's entire body of literature.

The prize was won this year by French writer David Diop and his translator, American poet Anna Moschovakis, for the World War I novel At Night All Blood Is Black.

Diop, who is of Senegalese heritage, is the first French author and the first of African heritage to win the £50,000 prize.

At Night All Blood Is Black experienced a 477 per cent sale increase the week after its win, say prize organisers. It also appeared on former United States president Barack Obama's much anticipated summer reading list.