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DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2016: Six great books but only one author can win $50,000

DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2016:  Six great books but only one author can win $50,000

January 12 2016

UPDATE: January 16 update, Anuradha Roy wins for “Sleeping on Jupiter” – more to follow…

Winner of coveted literary prize will be announced very soon…

IT IS ONE OF the world’s most lucrative literary prizes with the winner of the DSC South Asian Literature Prize collecting $50,000 (almost £35,00) and all will be revealed on Saturday (January 16) when the prize winner is unveiled at the Galle Literary Festival in Sri Lanka.

A shortlist of six books was announced in London at the end of November and revealed the six in real-time on its Facebook page and twitter as the judges individually introduced the titles.

Sir Mark Tully (pictured right), chairman of the panel of judges, was among those who introduced the titles when they were unveiled at a launch at the Shaw Library at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Sir Mark said that there had been some hard decisions in narrowing the final list from the longlist of 11 titles, announced the month before in Delhi, to the shortlist of just six.

The ex-BBC India correspondent, famed for his Hindi and deep knowledge of the country, declared: “One of the most striking features of the list is the quality of writing. The novels are also remarkable for their realism and for the way they convey atmosphere. I am particularly glad that a translation from a South Asian language into English is included in the shortlist.”

sirmarktullydsccorrectHe introduced two of the books himself – “Family Life” by Akhil Sharma and “The Book of Gold Leaves” by Mirza Waheed. He said he had been impressed by Waheed’s book, which charts the tale of an ordinary young Kashmiri man, who is drawn into radicalism, as strife and violence hit the Valley. The other books are “Sleeping on Jupiter” by Anuradha Roy; “Hang Woman” by KR Meera and translated by J Devika; “The Lives of Others” by Neel Mukherjee and “She Will Build Him a City” Raj Kamal Jha.

The other judges: Dennis Walder, emeritus profession of Literature at the Open University; Karen Allman, US bookseller and literary co-ordinator; Neloufer de Mel, senior profession of English at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka and Syed Manzoorul Islam, celebrated Bangaldeshi writer, critic, academic and translator, also read out passages from the shortlisted titles.

Surina Narula MBE and the prize’s co-founder praised the judges for their choices.

“The array of talent that we continue to showcase is breath-taking and reflective of South Asia’s changing dynamics,” she said.

The launch was introduced by BBC Radio journalist Ritula Shah and those gathered to hear the final shortlist of six in late November also heard from Dr Mukulika Banerjee, director of South Asia Centre and associate professor anthropology at the LSE and Manhad Narula, Surina’s son, who is also on the steering committee for the prize now in its sixth year.

It is the first time the prize winner is not being announced at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), which begins on January 21 this year.

Last year, HS Narula one of the prize’s founders, told in Jaipur that the prize itself no longer needed to be connected to JLF and announcing it in different parts of the subcontinent offered it more scope to travel around the continent. DSC the company owned and run by the Narula family were among the original sponsors of JLF in its early days.

Below is a brief description of each of the nominated six titles. We will be reviewing them.



Family Life DIFFFamily Life” (Faber & Faber UK) – Akhil Sharma
Much acclaimed already and the recipient of the UK Folio prize for fiction and handed a £40,000 cheque for doing so, Sharma’s novel has been critically acclaimed and a huge commercial success, especially in Sharma’s native US. This prize is chosen by an academy of writers and critics.
Sharma was born in Delhi and emigrated to the US in 1979 and is a former investment banker. His first novel “An Obedient Father” won the 2001 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. He was named one of Granta’s ‘Best of young American Novelists’ in 2007.

sleepingonjupiter DIFFSleeping on Jupiter” (Hachette, India) – Anuradha Roy
This made the Man Booker longlist of 2015. Perhaps much better known in India, Roy’s latest novel is a deep examination of some the country’s deepest taboos. Centred around a coastal temple town and three women of a certain vintage, it ventures far into territory few others Indians would really dare to, tackling religion, child abuse and male power. Roy launched the book at Asia House in London last year, and ever since then its reputation has grown and grown.
A publisher by day, her previous two novels, “The Folded Earth” and “An Atlas of Impossible Longing” have both been much praised.

Hang Woman DIFFHang Woman” (translated by J Devika; Penguin, India) – KR Meera
Written in the South Indian language of Malayalam (spoken in Kerala), this is a novel about a family of hang men – except they no longer are…accepted into the fraternity, 22-year Chetna Grddha Mullick prepares herself for a career like no other. There is much media attention and on her shoulders lies the weight of history – how will she respond?
KR Meera started out as a prize-winning journalist and is now a full time writer of fiction. She is a much feted figure in Kerala and holds both the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award and the Odakkuzhal Award. She lives in Kottayam with husband Dileep and daughter Shruthi. J Devika is a  scholar and translator and specialises in late 19th century and early 20th century fiction.

The Book of Gold Leaves DIFFThe Book of Gold Leaves” (Viking/Penguin India) – Mirza Waheed
From a place of divine beauty to one soaked in blood and tears, Waheed goes back to the 1990s of Srinagar, when everything changed. Amidst the tumult he weaves a poignant love story, one that shimmers and crackles as the ravages of a dirty war descend upon the hapless couple.
Born and brought up in Kashmir, Waheed now lives in London. His debut novel, “The Collaborator” was much acclaimed and was named by many media as the book of the year in 2011.


The Lives Of Others DIFFThe Lives of Others” (Vintage/Penguin Random House, UK) Neel Mukherjee
Set in Calcutta (Kolkata) in 1967, Mukherjee brings us the tale of ‘Supratik’, whose politics have hardened as have the social and economic inequalities of the time. Like a ticking time bomb, Supratik’s politics will come to haunt the rest of his family and there will be explosions, not just of the physical kind.
Mukherjee’s first book, “A Life Apart” won awards and appeared in the inaugural DSC Prize for South Asian Literature in 2011. He also resides in London.


She Will Build Him a City DIFFShe will build him a city” (Bloomsbury, India) – Raj Kamal Jha
Delhi, a city both of magic and mayhem, of tales of the unexpected and the valiant. Three lives come to connect and the feelings of this trio are laid across the city like a map of undulating emotions, with peaks and troughs with the reader as a privileged navigator.
Jha is a journalist and chief editor of The Indian Express – he has written several novels and works in Delhi and lives in the satellite conurbation of Gurgaon.


The previous winners are “The Lowlands” by Jhumpa Lahiri; “Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer” by Cyrus Mistry; “Narcopolis” by Jeet Thayil; “Chinaman” by Shehan Karunatilaka; “Home Boy” by HM Naqvi

Mistry Magic seals $50,000 literary prize

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture