Creative writing student wins literary prize
A Creative Writing PhD student from the University of Adelaide has won the prestigious Man Asian Literary Prize for a novel he wrote as part of his studies.
Miguel Syjuco from the Philippines won the US$10,000 prize for his debut novel Ilustrado, a fictional account of a young Filipino caught within a notorious scandal spanning Philippine history.
Announced in Hong Kong last month, the Man Asian Literary Prize was established in 2006 to bring greater worldwide attention to Asian writing and authors.
"Ilustrado seems to us to possess formal ambition, linguistic inventiveness and sociopolitical insight in the most satisfying measure," said the panel of judges for the 2008 prize.
"Brilliantly conceived, and stylishly executed, it covers a large and tumultuous historical period with seemingly effortless skill. It is also ceaselessly entertaining, frequently raunchy, and effervescent with humour."
Miguel's work was among a high-calibre shortlist of five novels that included authors from the Philippines, India and China. The panel said the shortlist "testifies to the great vitality of the novel in Asian societies undergoing hectic and unexpected transformations".
Miguel's fiction, poetry and journalism have appeared in national and international publications and anthologies. The manuscript of Ilustrado has also been awarded the Grand Prize at the Palanca Awards.
Born in Manila, Miguel is currently living and working in Montreal, Canada. He has been studying for a PhD in English (Creative Writing) at the University of Adelaide and is now completing his PhD remotely.
He said the Creative Writing program at the University of Adelaide had given him "the space to fail", which in turn had helped him to reach success with his novel.
"I have written a novel which I could not have written without both the freedom and the guidance the University of Adelaide allowed me. Because of the Creative Writing program, I was able to fail and try again and attempt to reach further," he said.
"I'd like to think that the time I took during my PhD in revising the novel contributed to my winning, that maybe they liked its polish. It is gratifying to think that the three years I've spent on the book have been more than just me wandering lost in the woods."
Miguel said he was "humbled" by the recognition given to his novel.
"It is not only the Man Asian Literary Prize that means much to me, but also my own country's Palanca Award, the Philippines' highest literary honour. I see both awards as a vote of confidence in my promise as a writer. And therefore I respond with the promise to make good on that," he said.
Miguel said there were "many great writers in the creative writing program at the University of Adelaide", and he was proud to be among them.
"I'm looking forward to applying everything I learned from the University of Adelaide to making my next book hopefully better than my first one," he said.
Story by David Ellis