It’s been doing the runs for a few months now. Since January, in fact. At the Jaipur Literature Festival, the organisers had floated the idea of instituting the prize for South Asian Literature.
On Tuesday, the first steps for the prize were taken. Touted to bring the “rich and varied” South Asian literature to forefront, the prize and the money both are nothing to look down upon.
At US $50,000, the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature is heftier than the Man Asia Literary Prize — Asian Booker — which offers US $30,000. The prize is for a work of fiction, published between April 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010 and “can be written by an author of any ethnicity from any country which predominantly features themes based on South Asia”.
At the announcement of the “longlist” of novelists — 14 of them — writer, critic Nilanjana S. Roy, who is also one of the jury, said: “The content and not the nationality of the writer is important. Any writer — be it Dutch or an American — is eligible for the prize. The only qualification necessary is that the book should be set in South Asia, feature South Asian characters or has a deep allusion to the varied history and culture of South Asia.”
“Any Indian, or even Asian language is eligible — as long as it is translated in English,” said Manhad Narula, director, DSC Limited.
But why only translations? Why not felicitated the original? Lord Meghnad Desai, a member of the advisory board that picked the jury for the literary prize said: “English is the only language in South Asia. It is the language that is common to everyone, that keeps everyone connected. I can’t read Bangla or Tamil. But there is so much great literature in these languages that needs to reach the masses.” Only translation can help that, he said.
Roy confirmed it by saying: “The question is not why we are looking at English, the question is why there is no prize yet in Bangla or Tamil… for these great works of literature.”
Desai added: “Even if there are prizes in these languages, it doesn’t matter to those outside that vernacular.” We are trying to make these distinctions disappear, he said.
The longlist for the prize comprises: Upamanyu Chatterjee’s Way To Go, Amit Chaudhuri’s The Immortals, Chandrahas Chaudhury’s Arzee The Dwarf, The Story of a Widow by Musharraf Ali Farooqui, A Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman, Anjum Hassan’s Neti Neti, Atlas of Unknowns by Tania James, Manju Kapur’s The Immigrant, H.M. Naqvi’s Home Boy, Ali Sethi’s The Wish Maker, Chef by Jaspreet Singh, Aatish Taseer’s The Temple Goers, and in translation The Hour Past Midnight by Salma and Sankar’s The Middleman.
The shortlist of five or six writers will be announced at London, at the DSC South Asian Literature Festival in October.
The winner of DSC Prize for South Asian Literature would be announced in January 2011 at next year’s Jaipur Literature festival.
At the press meet, Surina Narula, festival advisor of the Jaipur Literature festival, said: “The London’s festival is about outreach. It’s not just about the literature enthusiast in London, but also those in Manchester and Birmingham.”
The 15-day literature festival in UK, to begin on October 15, will be travelling across UK. “The festival will visit the outer boroughs of the Capital (London), with authors appearing throughout London’s extended library network” in places such as Greenwich, Westminster, Islington, Harrow and Brent.