Karachi-based author H M Naqvi beat out stiff competition from five contenders to win the first DSC Literature Prize for South Asia for his debut novel Home Boy.
The USD 50,000 award was instituted in 2010 by infrastructure firm DSC, which is also the main sponsor of the Jaipur Literature Festival, and is aimed at honouring work of literature that deals with South Asia as a subject matter.
36-year-old Naqvi's Home Boy is a story of three Pakistani men living in New York who find themselves at the centre of a charged atmosphere post 9/11.
"I started writing the book in 2003, and since 2003 to 2011 I was working very hard... most of the time I would work till 6 in the morning. I was almost a destitute when I wrote Home Boy, it was lots of hard work," he said after being adjudged the winner.
Among the contenders for the prize were Amit Chadhuri's The Immortals, Musharraf Ali Farooqi's The Story of a Widow, Tania James' Atlas of Unknowns, Manju Kapur's The Immigrant and Neel Mukherjee's A Life Apart.
The award was instituted at the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2010 and the shortlist of six books was announced in October.
DSC Director Manhad Narula, the brain behind the award, said that he hoped it would have an impact of the scene of literature in South Asia as this was the first such prize honouring work on this subject.
"Some literature prizes tend to give more importance to the author rather than to his or her work. But I hope through this award we are able to ensure what matters is what the author is writing about," he said.
He said that one of the measures that would go a long away in ensuring credibility to the award is the fact that it honours work on the subject of South Asia, be it by any author of any nationality.
"Its about time South Asians have our own damn award," said an elated Naqvi.
Asked if he had to say something to his critics, the 36-year-old author said, "Mercifully in the US, in India as well as in Pakistan, my critics have been few. But all criticisms of Home Boy are valued. It is a debut novel and it has all the strengths and weaknesses of a debut novel."
The winner was decided judged by a jury chaired by Nilanjana S Roy, along with Lord Mathew Evans, Ian Jack, Amitava Kumar and Moni Mohsin.
Awarded for the best work of fiction pertaining to the South Asian region, the prize is given to works published in English, and includes translations in English with a share of the award money also going to the translator.
Jury chairperson Nilanjana S Roy said that the award had helped fill a blank space in the region.
"We are beginning to debate what exactly is Asian literature. The winner of this prize might not even be a South Asian," she said.
Jury member Ian Jack said that the choice for the award was difficult and the jury was divided till the last moment.