Jiang Rong, the Han Chinese author of Wolf Totem (狼图腾, 姜戎著), has been awarded the “Genius Writer Prize” (Bichgiin Mergen Prize) by the World Mongol Authors Association based in Mongolia, according to a news item in Mongolia’s UB Post. The novel is a semi-autobiographical novel about the experiences of a young student from Beijing “sent down” to the Inner Mongolian countryside 1967 during the Cultural Revolution.
According to a Chinese report (文豪奖) citing D. Boldbaatar, the Mongolian translator, since his translation into the Cyrillic hit the bookshelves in 2010 (left), it has sold 60,000 copies — effectively one copy for every 50 persons residing in Mongolia. An edition printed in the traditional Mongolian script is also to be distributed soon (below).
It is interesting to see how well the novel has apparently been received in Mongolia. Book sales and this new award seem to confirm that the Mongolians outside China find the portrayal of their herding culture as genuine. The much-hyped movie shot in Inner Mongolia by French director Jean-Jacques Anneau, however, proved somewhat controversial in China. According to a report in ChinaDaily Asia (Promoting Aggression):
In an open statement, ethnic Mongolian writer Guo Xuebo, said Wolf Totem has “seriously distorted the history, culture and philosophy” of his ethnic group.
Guo said the wolf has never been a totem for ethnic Mongolians. “The wolf, as a sheer animal, is ruthless, bloody, greedy, cruel, selfish and treacherous. [Its nature] has nothing to do with the team work spirit puffed up in the film and the novel,” the statement said.
Over at Paper Republic — Chinese Literature in Translation, Beijing-based Eric Abrahamsen translator wrote a biting piece about the film as well, entitled Wolf Totem: The Movie They Forgot to Make.
Also of interest is the make-up [*see comment below] of the World Mongol Authors Association, which awarded the prize to the Chinese author. The association president, Ts. Khulan, told the UB Post that it unites authors from “Hazara Mongol, Burytia, Tuva and Yakutia.” The latter three are republics in the Russian Federation, which indicates one doesn’t have to be a citizen of Mongolia to be a member. Surely a handful of China’s 5.8m ethnic Mongolians would like to join?