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The art of Han Kang

The art of Han Kang

Following her nomination for the Man Booker International Prize, Han Kang is determined to keep her admirers on tenterhooks with her latest project. She is giving her usual collaborator, Deborah Smith, a break and is at work not on a book but on a piece of art. The Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh approached Han and the media artist-film director Im Heung-soon to collaborate for the 2018 Carnegie International, the oldest North American exhibition of contemporary global art. But what type of artwork will this head-scratching couple come up with? The pair are keeping frustratingly tight-lipped: Han has said nothing while all Im has volunteered is that the work will feature modern and contemporary Korean history and that details will be unveiled soon. So, that leaves her fans all the more intrigued but absolutely none the wiser.

Congratulations to Mohsin Hamid, whose 2017 Man Booker shortlisted Exit West has just been awarded the Aspen Words Literary Prize for fiction with social impact and the handsome $35,000 cheque that goes with it. His book concerns two refugees who flee their war-torn homeland by stepping through mysterious doors that transport them straight to the West, and when asked how fiction can help us explore contemporary issues, Hamid responded that while reading a good novel: “Your sense of self begins to blur. A strange fertility becomes possible. And in that moment, as borders in the mind start to shift, new thinking becomes possible, and new politics too.”

Fiona Mozley, who featured alongside Hamid on last year's Man Booker shortlist, has her own crack at another prize. Her novel Elmet is one of six nominated for the RSL Ondaatje Prize for a book (fiction or non-fiction) evoking the spirit of place: the place Elmet depicts in intense detail is rural Yorkshire. The winner of the £10,000 prize will be announced on 14th May.

Having already made the successful leap from page to screen, Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day and Zadie Smith’s White Teeth are now heading for the stage. The Royal & Derngate Theatre in Northampton has commissioned an adaptation of Ishiguro’s butler story from the playwright Barney Norris and Ishiguro himself. Performances begin in February 2019 with a national tour is to follow. The adaptation of Smith’s tale of London multiculturalism by the playwright Stephen Sharkey will start its run at the Kiln Theatre in Kilburn, formerly the Tricycle Theatre, on 26 October. Since both books have already appeared on screen – big in Ishiguro’s case, small in Smith’s – operatic versions surely can’t be too far away and then maybe they will be turned into ballets.

The latest Man Booker book to follow in Ishiguro and Smith's footsteps is Aravind Adiga's 2008 winner The White Tiger. The director Ramin Bahrani is due to start filming the novel for Netflix later this year. The project though is for him not just another movie: since, he revealed, Adiga “has been a close friend since college, and he wrote parts of the book in my apartment” when the pair were fellow students at Columbia University. The story of the ruthless and bloody rise of Balram Halwai, from Bangalore chauffeur to successful businessman, “encompasses the entire scope of the country, and it is done with biting humour,” says Bahrani. The director hopes the film will have international appeal since, “The concept of rich and poor is so global, all over the world,” he said, before breaking the news to a room full of Hollywood executives that “the U.S. isn’t immune to it”.