Amitabha Bagchi wins $25,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2019
Amitabha Bagchi’s new novel titled, Half The Night Is Gone was on Monday declared the winner of the $25,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2019. The novel is being cited as a novel in English that feels like a book written in an Indian language which has lost nothing in the translation and beating off a stiff challenge from five other contenders in the shortlist.
Amitabha Bagchi has previously published three novels namely, Above Average, The Householder and This Place. The first, Above Average, was a bestseller; his second novel, The Householder, was published to critical acclaim and the third, This Place, was shortlisted for the Raymond Crossword Book Award 2014.
Bagchi was awarded by the Nepalese Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali and DSC Prize co-founder Surina Narula after his name had been declared by jury chair Harish Trivedi on the concluding day of the IME Nepal Literature Festival.
Apart from Bagchi, the other contendors for the coveted prize were Jamil Jan Kocha for 99 Nights in Logar, Madhuri Vijay for The Far Field, Manoranjan Byapari for There’s Gunpowder in the Air, Raj Kamal Jha for The City and the Sea, and Sadia Abbas for The Empty Room.
Half The Night Is Gone 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.”
This novel is being touted as one that evokes the sensibility of not one but three Indian languages: Hindi, Urdu and Sanskrit. It interweaves three parallel stories, interrogating the relationships between men and women, fathers and sons, masters and servants, and the nation and the individual.
“In all humility, I am very happy to be in the company of such writers (on the shortlist),” Bagchi said in his acceptance speech adding: “I hope to represent all of them. I thank those (writers) who have come before us; who have contributed to our literature and poetry. In troubled times, poetry tends to get sucked out. Our attempt is to give this back to society.”
“South Asia is now, perhaps, more visible and more omnipresent than ever before. There is a South Asia at home and a South Asia abroad and both inhabit a shared literary space of writings originally in English or translated into English,” Harish Trivedi, a former Professor of English at Delhi University who has written extensively on colonial and post colonial literature, said on the occasion.
The others on the jury were Jeremy Tambling, former Professor of Literature at the University of Manchester with an interest in present and past literatures, in critical theory, and in film; Kunda Dixit, Editor of the Nepali Times newspaper in Kathmandu, and author of several books on the South Asian region, climate change and technology; Carmen Wickramagamage, Professor of English at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, whose work has focused on feminism, postcolonial theory, and Third World women writers; andA Rifat Munim, a bilingual writer, essayist, and translator, and the literary editor of Dhaka Tribune in Bangladesh, with special interest in South Asian English writing.
“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,” said DSC Prize co-founder Surina Narula.
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 held 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.
-- With inputs from PTI and IANS