MONTREAL – A Quebec writer is among the four finalists for the New Academy Prize in Literature.
Author Kim Thuy has joined Maryse Conde, Neil Gaiman and Haruki Murakami on the short list for the award.
The temporary writing accolade was introduced only for this year in the wake of a decision in May by the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Prize for Literature, to forgo the honour in 2018 amid a scandal involving sex abuse and financial crimes.
A list of candidates was created based on the choices of Swedish librarians, with the 47 writers submitted to a popular vote.
The public elected the four finalists and the winner will be announced Oct. 12.
Thuy says she’s honoured by the nomination but the Vietnamese-born writer doesn’t intend to free up her schedule on Dec. 9, the date of the prize ceremony.
She evaluates her chances of winning at “less than zero” when stacked up against established, veteran writers.
Thuy noted she is also the youngest of the four nominees.
“I see them as cultural icons — veteran writers — while I’m just at the beginning of this adventure,” she said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “They are thousands of kilometres ahead of me.”
The finalists were informed by email late Tuesday but Thuy said she only looked at it closely early Wednesday morning after an afternoon and evening of taking care of her family and a night out at the theatre.
“I only really understood the meaning of the email and that prize around 1 a.m.,” Thuy said. “It wasn’t until much later — six hours later.”
While it’s not the Nobel Prize, the citizen-driven honour is touching, Thuy said.
“We were not just stunned by the decision of the institution, we (the literary community) acted,” she said. “For that reason, it’s much more than a literary prize, it’s a citizen movement.”
Seeing her name appear on the original list of 47 was already a surprise.
When the public whittled down that list, the author of novels “Ru”, “Vi” and “mãn” doesn’t understand how she was able to beat out international heavyweights such as Margaret Atwood and J.K. Rowling.
“First, I may be the only writer in the group who posted about the contest on Facebook,” she quipped. “I have a big Vietnamese family and they had to vote for me! I do not downplay the work of the people who voted because it was quite complicated. It was a commitment.”
She took to social media to give thanks to her Quebec fans Wednesday.