By Zafri Mudasser Nofil
(Eds: Updating with details)
Pokhara (Nepal), Dec 16 (PTI) Amitabha Bagchi on Monday won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2019 for his post-colonial novel "Half the Night is Gone" that unfolds over three generations, explores human relationships, and the intertwining of fates and cultures in an Indian context.
The judges said the book is "epic in scope, profound in its exploration of class and gender, and elegantly assured in the way it infuses English with Indian wit and wisdom to achieve an unprecedented commingling of different literatures and cultures".
The book beat "99 Nights in Logar" (Jamil Jan Kochai), "The Far Field" (Madhuri Vijay), "There's Gunpowder in the Air" (Manoranjan Byapari, translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha), "The City and the Sea" (Raj Kamal Jha), "The Empty Room" (Sadia Abbas) for the USD 25,000 prize.
Bagchi was handed over the prize by Nepal's Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali at the IME Nepal Literature Festival which concluded on Monday here.
This year's international jury panel was headed by Harish Trivedi and had Jeremy Tambling, Kunda Dixit, Carmen Wickramagamage and Rifat Munim as its other members.
The festival was organised at the Taalbarahi Chowk on the bank of lake Fema in this picturesque Nepal city.
The jury in the citation "Half the Night is Gone" said this novel, written in English, "feels like a book written in an Indian language, and has the authenticity and the interiority of a work in translation without in fact being a translation".
"All sub-continental novelists in English since Raja Rao have striven ‘to express in a language that is not one’s own a sensibility that is one’s own’, and this novel evokes the sensibility of not one but three Indian languages: Hindi, Urdu and Sanskrit.
"It weaves together three parallel stories, interrogating the relationships between men and women, fathers and sons, masters and servants, and the nation and the individual,” the judges said.
Trivedi, speaking on behalf of the jury, said, “For the five jury members located in five different countries, reading 90 novels in 90 days was a transformative experience. Over the months, we arrived at a diverse and inclusive longlist of 15 and a shortlist of 6 novels, representing the polyphonic richness of the region.
"It is out of this collective literary churning that there has emerged a winner whose work subsumes many languages and sensibilities."
All the five jury members and four of the shortlisted authors except Vijay and Abbas were present at the event where the authors did a reading from their shortlisted novels.
Surina Narula, co-founder of the DSC Prize said, “All the shortlisted books this year deal with diverse and powerful themes and there were three debut novels and a book about Afghanistan. It is a tough decision as always for the jury to choose a winner from these exceptional entries.”
She said the DSC Prize has now completed nine years and it is “heartening to see the increased interest among readers across the world in South Asian life and culture through these books”.
The DSC Prize winner is announced at a different South Asian country every year by rotation. The 2016 winner was announced at the Galle Literary Festival in Sri Lanka while in 2017 it was done at the Dhaka Lit Fest in Bangladesh. The 2018 prize was presented at the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet.
Past winners of the prize are 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 last year’s prize. PTI ZMN BK