NEW DELHI: The Indian literary world celebrated on Friday that Geetanjali Shree’s ‘Tomb of Sand’ became the first book written in an Indian language to win the prestigious International Booker Prize.
The prize is awarded annually to a book that has been translated into English and published in the UK and Ireland.
Shree wrote “Tomb of Sand” (Hindi title “Ret Samadhi”) in 2018. It’s a family saga set in the shadow of the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, when British India was divided into two independent states – India and Pakistan – triggering one of the largest migrations in history, with an estimated 15 million people forced to change countries in a political upheaval that claimed the lives of more than a million people.
The novel follows an 80-year-old Indian woman who travels to Pakistan after her husband’s death to deal with the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of partition, and in the process, reevaluates what it means to be a mother, daughter and wife. .
The book was translated from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell, who shares the award with Shree. It was the first Hindi-language novel to earn a nomination for the award.
In her acceptance speech in London on Thursday evening, Shree said behind her was a “rich and thriving literary tradition in Hindi and other South Asian languages”.
“World literature will be all the richer to know some of the best writers in these languages. The vocabulary of life will increase from such interaction,” she said.
Indian writers greeted Shree’s recognition with the same hope.
“It’s an absolutely marvelous achievement,” Arundhati Roy, one of India’s most renowned writers, told Arab News.
Namita Gokhale, director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, India’s biggest literary event, said the prize will provide “indispensable understanding of Hindi literature, one of the world’s great literatures”.
She continued, “It will lead to more and more translations (of Hindi works). There are so many wonderful translations, but certainly many, many more need to be done, as there are wonderful scriptures at all levels of contemporary Hindi literature.
For Hindi novelist Bhagwandass Morwal, Shree’s victory was “a matter of great pride”.
“After the Nobel Prize, the Booker is the most recognized literary prize,” he said. “It’s a Booker Prize. It’s the start. In the future, we’ll see more.
“Tomb of Sand” edged out five other titles shortlisted for the prize, including “The Books of Jacob” by Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk, Nobel Prize winner, and “Heaven” by Mieko Kawakami, the best-known Japanese author for “Breasts and Eggs”. ”