AVANT-GARDE Chinese novelist Can Xue may have missed out on the two Nobel Prizes for Literature announced by the Swedish Academy on Oct. 10, but the buzz around her potentially being in the running for one of the most famous prizes in writing this past week has seen the prices of her books rocket.
There has been a wave of new interest in her work since a number of bookmakers placed her as fourth favorite for the award.
The two prizes ultimately went to controversial Austrian author Peter Handke and Polish novelist and activist Olga Tokarczuk. Yet on Kindle and Chinese ecommerce sites, some of Can’s works have doubled and almost tripled in price following the Nobel hype and an apparent endorsement by Susan Sontag, accoring to radiichina.com.
Deng Xiaohua, the author behind the Can Xue pseudonym, was born in Changsha, in China’s southern province of Hunan.
She was born in 1953 in Hunan Province. Not raised as a writer, she spent almost 20 years as a worker, tailor and medical practitioner. Yet she never gave up on her passion, and in 1985 published her first novel “Yellow Mud Street.”
Her works include novels, novellas and also literary criticism. “Five Spice Street” and “The Last Lover” are among her works available in English.
Her work is renowned in certain literature circles for its experimental, often abstract style, but until this week she remained largely unknown in her home country. As her name became a hot topic online, many users on platforms such as microblogging site Weibo admitted to not having heard of her before. Her novel “The Last Lover” has been honored with the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in the U.S., widely considered a prelude award for the Nobel.
Sharing a stylistic similarity with Franz Kafka, Can has been called the “Chinese Kafka” by permanent Nobel Literature Committee judge and renowned sinologist Goran Malmqvist. Malmqvist even believes Can could achieve more than Kafka, as she has already created more than 7 million words of literary composition.
Can responded she was unworthy of that level of praise and that she is just standing on Kafka’s shoulders.
In reponse to the Nobel announcement, Can said she was happy about the mention. “I’m glad that my writings, usually not that widely read, are attracting more of an audience, and I see my readership is growing and maturing,” she told her editor at Hunan Literature and Art Publishing House on Wednesday.