The Vodafone-Crossword Book Awards 2008 shortlist is star-studded -- and finding place are The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie, Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh, Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri, Past Continuous by Neel Mukherjee and Escape by Manjula Padmanabhan.
This was announced by a panel comprising publisher-writer Urvashi Butalia, authors Mani Shankar Mukherji and Namita Devidayal and founder of Crosswords Bookstore R. Sriram in the capital on Thursday.
"This is the first time we are announcing the Vodafone-Crossword Book Award 2008 in New Delhi. We are proud to have brought at least one of the phases of the awards to the capital, considering that the city has given birth to so many literary geniuses," said Chandrashekhar Navalkar, CEO Crossword Bookstores.
The awards will be given to the winners July 23 at the Nehru Auditorium in Mumbai. Each award carries a cash prize of Rs.300,000, a trophy and a citation. In the case of the Indian language fiction translation category, the author and the translator share the prize money.
The shortlists in the non-fiction category include Curfewed Nights by Basharat Peer, Red Sun: Travels in Naxalite Country by Sudeep Chakravarti, Smoke and Mirrors by Pallavi Aiyar, The Last Jews of Kerala by Edna Fernandes and The Women of Mahabharata by Chaturvedi Badrinath.
The shortlisted books in translation category include Dissonance and Other Stories by K.S. Subramanian, Manto - Selected Stories by Aatish Taseer, T'TA Professor by Ira Pande and The Wind from the Hills by Prema Jayakumar.
The shortlisted nominees were selected by a panel of judges from a long list of 176 entries submitted by publishers.
Vodafone and Crosswords have also instituted a special "Popular Award" offering readers the opportunity to vote (via sms) for their favourite book from the shortlisted books. The winner will be given a prize of Rs.100,000 and a trophy.
The eligibility criteria for the award is that entries must be works of prose fiction, excluding teenage and children fiction, the entries must be either full-length novels or collections of short stories, they must be original works in English and the authors must be of Indian origin.
"The role of the awards is not just recognising the authors. It is almost like the Oscars. We want to take contemporary Indian literature to a new level and involve people," said Namita Devidayal, winner of the award in 2007 for her work of fiction The Music Room.
Defending the decision for the SMS vote for the most popular book, founder of Crosswords Bookstores, R. Sriram said it was the easiest way to "ensure maximum participation, access and awareness about books and the awards because nearly 400 million people in India own mobile phones".
The announcements were preceded by an hour-long interaction between publishers, writers and the Vodafone-Crossword panel at the India Habitat Centre.