First International Booker Prize for an Indian-Language Book: With victory, Indian publishing hopes for revolution


As India’s literary circuit celebrates the first-ever International Booker Prize for an Indian-language book, Geetanjali Shree’s Tomb of Sand, a translated version of Ret Samadhi in Hindi, the mood is optimistic for publication in regional languages.

As if inspired by Frank Wynne, the president of the jury for this year’s prize, who said in an online press conference that the recognition of Tomb of Sand was important given its language, because Tens of thousands of books are published in Indian Languages ​​every year, but few are translated into English, publishers at home believe this will only energize an ecosystem that is already on its way to revolutionizing Indian publishing.

Meru Gokhale, Editor at Penguin Press, Penguin Random House India, which published Tomb of Sand in March this year, said, “This is a landmark day for Indian publishing. This victory honors the genius of Geetanjali Shree and the brilliant translation of Daisy Rockwell. Equally exciting, it also opens up possibilities for so many other writers and translators who can hope to reach international readers.

While India has several writers writing in English, translations from Hindi as well as regional language books into English have accelerated in recent years. From pulp fiction like Surendra Mohan Pathak to titles like Vivek Shanbhag’s Ghachar Ghochar, the repertoire of translations has been comprehensive. However, today’s victory will provide a much-needed boost to the translation market. A recent study, “India Literature and Publishing Sector Study”, also pointed out that translated Indian literature needs to be more visible to English-speaking publishers, and this also requires promoting writers and translators, and inviting publishers to India to engage in publishing and the literary ecosystem.

As Udayan Mitra, Executive Editor, HarperCollins India said, “Some of the most beautiful and interesting writing in India today happens in languages; this makes the availability of these works in English extremely important. Greater recognition of the very quality of fiction translated in India would be helpful for readers in general. There are literary awards in India that still exclude translations from the realm of literary fiction. And to qualify for many international awards like the Booker, the book must have been published in the UK. Restrictions like these sometimes make it a bit difficult for some excellent works of fiction coming out of India to find the recognition and readership they deserve.

On the awards front, several national awards have been honoring translations for a few years now. The $25,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature instituted in 2010 focuses specifically on writing South Asian fiction, which encourages writing about the region, its people, and its cultures. Translations of writings into the local languages ​​of countries in the region are also eligible for the prize.

The JCB Prize for Literature established in 2018 has a prize of $33,000 for a work of fiction by an Indian writer writing in English or a fiction translated by an Indian writer. Mita Kapur, Literary Director of the JCB Prize, said: “To have an international prize like the Booker recognize a translation from Hindi is a prodigious triumph indeed. The JCB Prize for Literature has focused on translations and books originally written in English from the very beginning. Three of our winners over the past four years have been translations, a testament to the plethora of outstanding stories in our regional languages ​​across the country.

Mitra of HarperCollins India added: “It has been gratifying to see that several of our translations — Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag, translated by Srinath Perur; No Presents Please by Jayant Kaikini, translated by Tejaswini Niranjana; S Hareesh’s Mustache, translated by Jayasree Kalathil, to name a few, has won major awards and has been praised by readers as well. I hope that more readers will turn to the rich treasure presented by translated literature.

Ashok Maheshwari, managing director of Rajkamal Publications, which published Ret Samadhi in 2018, said his selection for the International Booker Prize was a particular achievement for literature written in all Indian languages, including Hindi.

The novel tells the story of an 80-year-old woman who finds new life after being depressed following the death of her husband. Geetanjali Shree said in his acceptance speech, “There is a wistful satisfaction in the award given to him. Ret Samadhi / Tomb of Sand is an elegy for the world we inhabit, an enduring energy that keeps hope alive in the face of impending doom. The Booker will surely bring it to many more people than it otherwise would have reached, that shouldn’t hurt the book. Ever since the book made it to the longlist, a lot has been written about how Hindi made it for the first time. It feels good to be the vehicle for this to happen, but it also compels me to point out that behind me and this book lies a rich and thriving tradition in Hindi and South Asian languages. Translator Daisy Rockwell was heard saying: “I’m mostly going to give thanks.” The book also won the English Pen Award.

“Warm congratulations to Geetanjali Shree ji & @shreedaisy for winning the International Booker Prize 2022. This is a big boost for literary translations in India and Tomb of Sand showcases the depth and richness of literature in various languages ​​of India,” the official Twitter said. handful of Sahitya Akademi wrote.

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