Stereotype-busting Hindi novel in race for International Booker Prize

Stereotype-busting Hindi novel in race for International Booker Prize
Geetanjali Shree (right) with translator Daisy Rockwell; Courtesy: Andrew Fosker for Shutterstock

Indian author Geetanjali Shree’s Hindi novel ‘Tomb of Sand’, described as “inventive and energetic” by the judges, is shortlisted for the prestigious International Booker Prize 2022 this week. The prize celebrates literature from all parts of the world translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland.

Author of three novels and several story collections, Shree's work has been translated into English, French, German, Serbian, and Korean. She was born in Mainpuri, Uttar Pradesh, in 1957, and ‘Tomb of Sand’ is the first of her books to be published in the UK. The Delhi-based author has received and been shortlisted for several awards and fellowships.

Shree travelled to London over the weekend to join Daisy Rockwell, the translator of her book, who is a painter, writer and translator living in Vermont, US. She has also done the cover design for some of the editions of ‘Tomb of Sand’ and views translation and illustration as very similar activities.

“She is a woman who has lived her life and is ready to die, so there is a whole stereotypical picture of her that everyone has and is responding to her according to that; and she’s clearly going to change that in a very, very revolutionary way,” Shree said of her 80-year-old female protagonist, during a discussion at the Southbank Centre in London ahead of the prize ceremony.

“She discovers freedom and a sense of adventure and reinvents herself as she goes along,” she shared.

The judges are on the record as being impressed by her novel’s “constantly shifting perspectives and timeframes”.

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Geetanjali Shree (right) with translator Daisy Rockwell; Courtesy: Andrew Fosker for Shutterstock
Bringing Hindi literature into an international purview

“Daisy Rockwell's spirited translation rises admirably to the complexity of the text, which is full of word play and verve. A loud and irresistible novel,” they note.

The International Booker Prize 2022, worth £50,000 split equally between author and translator, will be announced this week in London.

The other five titles in the shortlist include: ‘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.

For the first time in 2022, the shortlisted authors and translators will each receive £2,500, increased from £1,000 in previous years – bringing the total value of the prize to £80,000.

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