Madhuri Vijay in for rare double, makes $25,000 DSC lit prize shortlist

Vijay, whose novel The Far Field is set against a complex personal story in the backdrop of the conflict in Kashmir in the 1990s
Madhuri Vijay
Madhuri Vijay

London: Bengaluru-born Hawaii-based debutant author Madhuri Vijay, who has just been crowned with the Rs 25 lakh JCB Prize for Literature, India's richest, could be in for a rare double as she has been named in the shortlist of the $25,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature that was announced here on Wednesday night.

Vijay, whose novel The Far Field is set against a complex personal story in the backdrop of the conflict in Kashmir in the 1990s, is among the six authors named at a glittering event at the London School of Economics by jury chair Harish Trivedi.

The six shortlisted novels are:

Madhuri Vijay: The Far Field (Grove Press, Grove Atlantic, USA)

Amitabha Bagchi: Half the Night is Gone (Juggernaut Books, India)

Jamil Jan Kochai: 99 Nights in Logar (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury, India A& UK, and Viking, Penguin Random House, USA) A

Manoranjan Byapari: There's Gunpowder in the Air (Translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha, Eka, Amazon Westland, India) A

Raj Kamal Jha: The City and the Sea (Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Random House, India)

Sadia Abbas: The Empty Room (Zubaan Publishers, India)

"The shortlist that we have arrived at comprises six novels - for the good reason that the five jurors, located in five different countries, could not agree on just five novels. There are two women here, and three debut novelists including both the women. What is it about writing novels that one can get it so right the very first time of asking? Three of our writers live in South Asia and three live abroad - which fact may not come as a complete surprise. There is now a South Asia beyond South Asia. Two of the six novels are set partly in New Delhi, and partly in the surrounding countryside in one case, and in the other case partly on the Baltic coast," Trivedi said.

"One of the novels is set in Pakistan of the 1970s, one in Kashmir, and one in Afghanistan. The sixth is actually set in a prison and was written originally in Bengali by an author who has actually served time and used that period to learn to read and write. That too is South Asia," he added.

The shortlist includes four Indian authors and two authors of Pakistani and Afghan origin.

The five-member international jury panel diligently adjudicated on the 90 eligible entries this year from 42 publishers and 55 imprints from across the globe to first select a longlist of 15 novels which was announced September, which was further scrutinized to arrive at the shortlist of six.

The eventual winner will be announced at the conclusion of the Nepal Literature Festival at Pokhra on December 16.

The increasing globalisation of South Asian writing is highlighted by the fact that half the shortlisted authors are based outside the region, and their work brings alive the nuances of South Asian life in the same evocative manner as done by their counterparts living in the region.

"Each of the shortlisted books is a must-read and together they represent the very best of South Asian fiction writing. As the prize has always aimed to encourage fresh writing about the South Asian region, I am delighted to find women writers, debut novelists and a translated work on the shortlist, including voices from beyond the region," DSC Prize co-founder Surina Narula said.

This year's jury, apart from panel Harish Trivedi, a former Professor of English at the University of Delhi who has written extensively on colonial and postcolonial literature, included Jeremy Tambling, former Professor of Literature at the University of Manchester with an interest in present and past literatures, in critical theory, and in film; Kunda Dixit, editor of the Nepali Times newspaper in Kathmandu, and author of several books on the South Asian region, climate change and technology; Carmen Wickramagamage, Professor of English at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, whose work has focused on feminism, postcolonial theory, and Third World women writers; and Rifat Munim, a bilingual writer, essayist, and translator, and the literary editor of Dhaka Tribune in Bangladesh, with special interest in South Asian English writing.

Past winners of the prize have been H M Naqvi of Pakistan, Shehan Karunatilaka of Sri Lanka, Jeet Thayil and Cyrus Mistry from India, American author of Indian origin Jhumpa Lahiri, Anuradha Roy from India, Anuk Arudpragasam of Sri Lanka, and Jayant Kaikini along with translator Tejaswini Niranjana of India who won the prize last year.

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