In a first, Hindi novel wins International Booker Prize


Geetanjali Shree whose Hindi novel became the first Indian language book to receive International Book Prize with the English translator Daisy Rockwell

Author Geetanjali Shree achieved the singular distinction of receiving the prestigious International Booker Prize for her Hindi novel “Tomb Of Sand”, originally “Ret Samadhi” – the first one for any Indian language.

Receiving the award worth 50,000 pounds at London, the Manipur-born and New Delhi-based writer said she was “completely overwhelmed” She will be sharing this prize with Daisy Rockwell, the English translator.

In her acceptance speech, Shree said: "I never dreamt of the Booker, I never thought I could. What a huge recognition, I'm amazed, delighted, honoured and humbled. There is a melancholy satisfaction in the award going to it. 'Ret Samadhi/Tomb of Sand' is an elegy for the world we inhabit, a lasting energy that retains hope in the face of impending doom. The Booker will surely take it to many more people than it would have reached otherwise, that should do the book no harm.”

Commenting on a Hindi fiction making the Booker cut, Shree said it feels good to be the means of that happening. Sharing her thoughts on this she remarked: "But behind me and this book lies a rich and flourishing literary tradition in Hindi, and in other South Asian languages. World literature will be richer for knowing some of the finest writers in these languages. The vocabulary of life will increase from such an interaction.”

Set in northern part of India, the narrative revolves around an 80-year-old woman, Ma, who much to the surprise and reluctance of her family, decides to travel to Pakistan, while confronting the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of Partition and re-evaluating her role as a mother, a daughter, a woman, a feminist.

The chair of the judging panel, Frank Wynne sharing his views about the book observed: "This is a luminous novel of India and partition, but one whose spellbinding brio and fierce compassion weaves youth and age, male and female, family and nation into a kaleidoscopic whole.”

Shree has penned three novels and several story collections and her works have been translated into English, French, German, Serbian, and Korean.

The other shortlisted books included “Cursed Bunny”' by Bora Chung, translated by Anton Hur from Korean; “A New Name: Septology VI-VII” by Jon Fosse, translated by Damion Searls from Norwegian; “Heaven” by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Samuel Bett and David Boyd from Japanese; “Elena Knows” by Claudia Piñeiro, translated by Frances Riddle from Spanish; and “The Books of Jacob” by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft from Polish.