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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Four Indian and two Pakistani authors in contention for DSC Prize 2018

The much-anticipated shortlist for the USD 25,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2018 has been unveiled at a special event, which took place at the London School of Economics & Political Science. Now in its 8th year, the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature is one of the most prestigious international literary awards specifically focused on South Asian fiction writing.

The shortlist of six novels was announced on 14 November 2018 by Rudrangshu Mukherjee, chair of the DSC Prize 2018 jury panel, who along with the other four jury members, Claire Armitstead, Nandana Sen, Firdous Azim and Tissa Jayatilaka, had met a day prior to the event to arrive at the shortlist.

The shortlist comprises four authors of Indian origin and two authors of Pakistani origin and despite some of them being based outside the South Asian region, their work poignantly brings alive a wide spectrum of themes and emotions that are so relevant in contemporary South Asian life.

The shortlist also includes a translated book where the original writing was in Kannada. The shortlist announcement was well received by publishers, authors and literary enthusiasts who attended the event.

The six shortlisted entries contending for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2018 are:
Jayant Kaikini: No Presents Please (Translated by Tejaswini Niranjana, Harper Perennial, HarperCollins India)
Kamila Shamsie: Home Fire (Riverhead Books, USA and Bloomsbury, UK)
Manu Joseph: Miss Laila Armed and Dangerous (Fourth Estate, HarperCollins, India)
Mohsin Hamid: Exit West (Riverhead Books, USA and Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Random House, India)
Neel Mukherjee: A State Of Freedom (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, UK and Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Random House, India)
Sujit Saraf: Harilal & Sons (Speaking Tiger, India)

Speaking on the occasion, Mukherjee, said, “Being the chair of the jury of the DSC Prize has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life. I say this for two reasons. One is the sheer intellectual excitement of reading, evaluating and discussing these works of fiction. The other is the interactions I had with my four colleagues on the jury. I know I learnt an enormous amount from all of them and for this I am profoundly grateful to all of them. Evaluating these books reminded me once again of the importance of reading in human lives."

Administered by the South Asian Literature Prize & Events Trust, the prestigious DSC Prize for South Asian Literature has helped to raise the profile of South Asian writing around the world by rewarding authors who write on the region. Founded in 2010 by Surina Narula and Manhad Narula, the winning author is awarded a USD 25,000 prize. This year the prize received a record 88 entries, which included stunning portrayals of migration, war and the pain of displacement, poignant love stories, the exploration of new found relationships and identities, and vivification of the personal struggles, hopes and aspirations that symbolize the urgent and divisive realities of contemporary South Asian life.

Surina Narula, co-founder of the DSC Prize, said, “My heartfelt thanks and commendations to the jury panel for the detailed deliberations over the last few months, and coming up with such a good shortlist. The longlist announced last month was an impressive list; it must have been a challenging task for the jury to bring this down to a shortlist of six books. The shortlist represents the very best of South Asian fiction writing, and the depth, creativity and unique narrative of each of these novels is indeed both impressive and inspirational. My congratulations to each one of the shortlisted authors and translator and I wish them the very best for the final award ceremony.”

The announcement evening also featured a special panel discussion moderated by Claire Armitstead, associate editor, Culture, for The Guardian on the ‘Importance of literary prizes, with Alexandra Pringle, and Sathnam Sanghera.

Following the announcement of the shortlisted entries, the jury will convene again to select the winning author, ahead of the final award ceremony to be held at the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet which would take place in Kolkata, India between 22 and 27 January 2019.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Keki Daruwalla writes on Book of Prayers in his column ‘Poetry Wire’ in The Hindu.

Dibyajyoti Sarma is both poet and small-time publisher of beautiful volumes of poetry. His Book of Prayers could be placed in an art gallery. But nowhere does he say that the illustrations are his. The reader is baffled. His poetry is a mix of myth and history. His grandfather returns as a beggar to Nalabari from East Pakistan, with a few gold coins of Queen Victoria tucked in the knot of his dhoti, and tall stories of the wealthy life he had lived. His poems are well grounded in fact and reveal a culture which he displays lovingly and yet subverts dangerously.

Read the complete piece, ‘With rice stems in her hair’ in The Hindu

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Women writers, debut novelists dominate DSC Prize 2018 entries

As the longlist for the DSC Prize 2018 is scheduled to be announced on 10 October, Dibyajyoti Sarma looks at the trends among the 88 submissions received this year.

Women writers rule the roosts in South Asian Literature. At least, this seems to be the consensus at this year’s USD 25,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. The international literary prize received a total of 88 eligible entries, of which 45 are by women.
The other significant aspect of this year’s submissions has been the proliferation of debut novelists, with a significant 30% of the submissions being debut novels. Even among them, 15 are by women writers.

The DSC Prize, now in its eighth year, has always encouraged new and upcoming talent writing about South Asia. Last year, the Prize was given to Anuk Arudpragasam of Sri Lanka for his debut, ‘The Story of a Brief Marriage’. Other authors who took home the Prize for their first novels include HM Naqvi for ‘Home Boy’, Shehan Karunatilaka for ‘Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew’, and Jeet Thayil for ‘Narcopolis’.

The DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, which was instituted by Surina Narula and Manhad Narula in 2010 is administered by the South Asian Literature Prize & Events Trust, and is specifically focused on showcasing and rewarding the best talent writing about the region and presenting it to a global audience.

On the submissions received this year, Surina Narula, founder of the DSC Prize, said the entries include a healthy mix of debut novelists along with established writers, women writers, translated novels, stories set in South Asia and beyond. “Close to a quarter of all the entries have come in from publishers outside South Asia, which highlights the growing importance of the region in the global literary landscape,” he said.

She also said 88 eligible entries received this year was the highest ever since the prize’s inception in 2010. These entries have come in from 40 publishers and across 56 imprints from across the globe and represent a healthy diversity in terms of publishers and region.

The prize has been able to attract the interest of not just the large well established publishing conglomerates, but also several smaller publishers with special interest in South Asian writing. The prize has received close to 25% of the submissions from publishers based beyond South Asia, which highlights the growing interest of publishers and authors across the world in South Asian writing.

The novels are at present being read and evaluated by a five-member international jury panel who would first announce a longlist of 12 to 15 books on 10 October. Thereafter, the shortlist of five or six books would be announced at the London School of Economics on 14 November and the eventual winner of the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2018 would be announced at a special Award Ceremony to be held in February 2019 in a South Asian country.

In line with its South Asian essence, the award ceremony is held in various South Asian countries by rotation. The winner of the DSC Prize 2015 was announced at the Jaipur Literature Festival, the winner in 2016 was announced at the Galle Literary Festival in Sri Lanka, and the winner in 2017 was announced at the Dhaka Lit Fest in Bangladesh.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Friend and former colleague Medha Dutta asked me about poetry for a long piece published in The New Indian Express on 7 October 2018.

Here's what I apparently said.

"Poet and publisher, Red River, Dibyajyoti Sarma was invited to this year’s Bengaluru Poetry Festival both as a poet and a publisher. This year, he says, there were more than 50 poets who had been invited—both well-known and emerging—writing not just in English but in all Indian languages. Everyone was given the opportunity to share their works in a hall full of eager listeners. “Usually, poetry readings are fringe events. Bengaluru Poetry Festival has managed to take it to the mainstream,” he adds. According to Dibyajyoti, poetry was always popular, but its readership was always limited. But with Facebook and other social media, Indian poets, especially younger ones, have managed to find a community to share their work, or be a part of it. This visibility has also been helped by experiments like ‘Insta poetry’ or ‘spoken word poetry’, he adds. He published his first book with Writers Workshop, Kolkata, in 2004. “It was a buy-back arrangement. I could recover at least some portion of the investment,” Dibyajyoti explains.

"According to him, poetry has a limited market and for a commercial publisher, it’s a risk. This becomes a roadblock for new poets who are keen to be published by a mainstream publisher. But the landscape is slowly changing. About a decade ago, Poetrywala was established as a dedicated poetry press. Today, there are several such initiatives, such as Hawakal (Kolkata), Copper Coin (Delhi) and Red River (Delhi), among others. Besides, initiatives such as The (Great) India Poetry Collective, and RL Poetry Awards run by Linda Ashok, are a major encouragement."

Read the complete story, InstaRhyme Time by Medha Dutta in The New Indian Express.


I wrote something about DSC PRIZE 2018 in Sakal Times, 7 October 2018. Read the full story at Sakal Times.