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China Focus: Elite literature prize stirs questions on credibility

English.news.cn   2014-08-14 19:26:07

BEIJING, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- China's prestigious Lu Xun Literature Prize has come under fire after its most recent award winner for poetry was denounced as a "shame on poetry."

Zhou Xiaotian, a poet and professor of the literature and journalism college of Sichuan University, won the prize on Monday for his poem collection "Jiang Jin Cha" or invitation to tea.

Not long after the announcement, Zhou's verses were posted online by Internet users with the charge of being "nothing more than doggerels unworthy of the prize."

Many have criticized the winner for the colloquial style of his poems based on the late singer-actor Leslie Cheung from Hong Kong and another on Nobel prize winner in physics Yang Zhenning.

"The 28-year-old wife and the 82-year-old husband, one for talent and the other for lust," according to a line of his poem on the physist's high-profile marriage at the age of 82 in 2004.

"I've never heard of this poet, but I'm suspicious of the quality of his works submitted to the committee after reading those provided by online users," said Fang Fang, a writer based in Wuhan, Hubei Province.

"Are those judges really adept? Did they make judgement on the work's quality or on the candidates' connections?" Fang added, casting doubt upon the professional ethics of the judging panel.

Zhou, however, has refuted the criticisms on his work.

"Doggerels are not necessarily ill-written poems. You can hardly expect people to read serious poems nowadays," Zhou said in an interview with Xinhua.

He defended the fairness of the selection process, saying the whole procedure of voting was transparent based on a real-name system.

Zhou's argument was backed by professionals. Fan Xing, professor with Wuhan University, said it is almost impossible for a poet to ensure every single verse is well-written.

"It's only some of Zhou's poems that have aroused controversy," Fan added, while admitting some lines are unrefined.

The prize named after Lu Xun, one of China's best-known modern authors and essayists, was first awarded in 1986.

Writers of outstanding short- to middle-length novels, poems, prose, essays, reportage, literary reviews and theoretical works will receive the award, which is bestowed every three years.

It is not the first time the literature prize has been put in the spotlight.

In 2010, Che Yangao, secretary of the discipline inspection committee in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province, was awarded the prize for his collection of poems "Yearning for Warmth," which was criticised for being overly simplistic.

Many of the current elite literature awards have not been well received by the public, not just the Lu Xun Literature Prize, Ding Xiaoyuan, vice president of the Chinese Reportage Association, said.

"Professional judges should listen to public feedback, rather than sealing up literature in an ivory tower," he warned.

Editor: Fu Peng
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