By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Trivedi: ‘That, Too, Is South Asia’Administered by the South Asian Literature Prize & Events Trust, the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature is focused on raising the profile of writing around the world by rewarding authors who write about the South Asian region.
Founded in 2010 by Surina and Manhad Narula, the program carries an award of US$25,000 and is available for entry to writers of any ethnicity or nationality as long as the work pertains to the region in “content and theme.”
The program may well have the most exotic location of the awards season arranged for its winners’ announcement this year, the Nepal Literature Festival on December 16 in Pokhara on Phewa Lake.
As Publishing Perspectives readers will remember, the longlist for the award was announced in September in New Delhi.
On Wednesday (November 6), the shortlist was announced at the London School of Economics and Political Science in Houghton Street, marking the program’s ninth year of operation. The list, in a surprise, has six titles on it, rather than the anticipated five, perhaps a quiet echo of the half-Booker split achieved by Peter Florence’s jury for the Booker Prize for Fiction this year.
Jury chair Harish Trivedi, chair, a former professor of English at the University of Delhi, presided at the shortlist announcement. And attendees at last week’s publishers’ conference at the Sharjah International Book Fair will note that one of the shortlisted books is from Juggernaut Books in India, led by Chiki Sarkar who spoke during the conference on the topic of new media.
In fact, four of the six shortlisted titles are published in India, while the other two are from the United States. The shortlist features authors of Indian, Pakistani, and Afghan origins, and one of the works from India is a translation from a work in Bengali.
The DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2019 Shortlist
- Amitabha Bagchi: Half the Night is Gone (Juggernaut Books, India)
- Jamil Jan Kochai: 99 Nights in Logar (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury, India and UK, and Viking, Penguin Random House, USA)
- Madhuri Vijay: The Far Field (Grove Press, Grove Atlantic, USA)
- Manoranjan Byapari: There’s Gunpowder in the Air (translated by Arunava Sinha, Eka, Amazon Westland, India)
- Rajkamal Jha: The City and the Sea (Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Random House, India)
- Sadia Abbas: The Empty Room (Zubaan Publishers, India)
The program’s organizers make the point that the shortlist represents the rapid globalization of South Asian work, with three of the six authors being based outside the region.
In his comments on the jury’s rationale for the books shortlisted, Trivedi mentioned the geographical range represented not only by the authors honored but also by his jury panel.
“The shortlist that we have arrived at,” he said, “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.
“Three of our writers live in South Asia and three live abroad—which may not come as a complete surprise. There’s 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. 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.”
The event on Wednesday also featured an address from bestselling author and playwright Kate Mosse, who spoke about the importance and impact of women in writing and publishing in South Asia and elsewhere.
Trivedi is joined in the jury this year by Jeremy Tambling, former professor of literature at the University of Manchester; Kunda Dixit, editor of the Nepali Times newspaper in Kathmandu, and author of several books on the South Asian region and climate change; Carmen Wickramagamage, professor of English at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka; Rifat Munim, a bilingual writer, essayist, and translator, and the literary editor of Dhaka Tribune in Bangladesh.
Past winners of the DSC South Asian include:
- H M Naqvi of Pakistan
- Shehan Karunatilaka of Sri Lanka
- Jeet Thayil and Cyrus Mistry from India
- American Jhumpa Lahiri
- Anuradha Roy from India,
- Anuk Arudpragasam of Sri Lanka