Booker Prize reverses decision on Ming-Yi's nationality listing

Booker Prize reverses decision on Ming-Yi's nationality listing

The Booker Prize Foundation has reversed its controversial decision on how to list Wu Ming-Yi’s nationality on its website following a row over the situation.

A few weeks after the 46-year-old professor was nominated for the £50,000 prize last month, controversy erupted after it was revealed the Foundation had changed his nationality on its prize materials, from "Taiwan" to "Taiwan, China", after receiving a complaint from the Chinese Embassy in London about the labelling of the author’s nationality. China claims Taiwan as its own territory, but the island operates with its own government and has its own form of currency with most citizens identifying themselves as Taiwanese.

The move to change the listing of his nationality angered The Stolen Bicycle author Ming-Yi and many others.

But on Wednesday (4th April) the Foundation told The Bookseller that following consultation with the UK government and other stakeholders, it would revert to its original listing of Ming-Yi’s nationality.

“Following correspondence with stakeholders and additional guidance on the appropriate terminology from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, changes will be made to the Man Booker International Prize materials,” Truda Spruyt, a spokesperson for the Foundation, said.

“The country/territory of longlisted authors and translators will appear, and Wu Ming-Yi will be listed as ‘Taiwan’. The prize is not about defining nationality; all global citizens are eligible, provided they are published in translation in the UK.”

The change to the prize website had not taken place by the time this article was published on Wednesday morning, but was being implemented immediately, The Bookseller was told.

Earlier in the week the Foundation had “deliberated and consulted, including with the author’s agent" before altering Ming-Yi’s nationality to “Taiwan, China”, according to Spruyt.

Ming-Yi is one of the 13 authors longlisted for the prize, which recognises author and translator equally, for his historical novel, The Stolen Bicycle, translated by Darryl Sterk (Text Publishing).

The writer, also an associate professor at National Dong Hwa University in Hualian, Taiwan, had criticised the original change on his Facebook page last week, attracting more than 2,800 ‘Likes’. Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture had also objected, reportedly along with Lin Hsiu-mei, his editor at Rye Field Publishing Co., which published the original Chinese-language version of The Stolen Bicycle.

The author is represented by the Grayhawk Agency in Taiwan and Georgina Capel of Georgina Associates in London. Capel told The Bookseller on Tuesday (3rd April) that she had not been notified about the original change. Gray Tan, founder of Grayhawk, has been contacted for a comment, along with the FCO.

A shortlist of six books for the Man Booker International Prize will be revealed on 12th April, and the winner of the prize will be revealed on 22nd May. The award was altered in 2016 to be awarded to author and translator on the basis of a single work, as opposed to a body of work, after it was integrated with the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.