The US $50,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, the most prestigious international literary award specifically focused on South Asian writing, is open to authors of any ethnicity or nationality as long as the writing is about South Asia and its people. It actively encourages writing in regional languages and translations - the prize money is equally shared between the author and the translator in case a translated entry wins.
The Prize is now in its fifth year and over the past half-decade it has helped present writing about the South Asian region to a global audience. The last four years have had winners from three different countries in South Asia: H.M. Naqvi from Pakistan (Homeboy, Harper Collins, India); Shehan Karunatilaka from Sri Lanka (Chinaman, Random House, India); Jeet Thayil from India (Narcopolis, Faber & Faber, London) and Cyrus Mistry from India (Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer, Aleph India). Each of these winners has gone on to international success.
Now, the longlist for the 2015 Prize has been announced in New Delhi. The announcement was made by Keki N. Daruwalla, leading Indian writer and poet, and chair of the jury panel. Other members are: John Freeman, author, literary critic and former editor of Granta from the US; Maithree Wickramasinghe, a Professor of English at the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka and at the University of Sussex, UK, and an expert on gender studies; Michael Worton, Emeritus Professor at University College London who has written extensively on modern literature and art; Razi Ahmed from Pakistan, the founding director of the Lahore Literary Festival.
The longlist of 10 books showcases work the jury feels best represents the eclectic and vibrant voice of the South Asian region. It includes a mix of established writers and debut novelists, and spans authors from different backgrounds and geographies. It features authors originating from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, some of whom are now based in USA, UK and Canada.
Keki N. Daruwalla said: “It has been both exhausting and rewarding going through the entries. As expected the variety was considerable. Obviously there was a tremendous mix here - of themes, landscapes, styles, issues, both political and personal. The narratives ranged from eighteenth and nineteenth century history to the Naxalite era in West Bengal, and from tribal rebellions to feudal atrocities. Scene and landscape varied from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal to Afghanistan. To give an idea of the variety, in one title a schizophrenic from Bihar imagines conversations with Sylvia Plath and Blake. In another soldiers returning from the Great War of 1914—1918 find life different in the North-West Frontier Province of what was then called British India. In yet another a Sri Lankan car driver on hire explores the past.”
At the announcement of the longlist Manhad Narula of the DSC Prize Steering Committee, said: “I am delighted that the DSC Prize has been able to highlight a range of issues pertaining to the ever evolving South Asian life - its culture, its people, and their new found aspirations. Given such a strong longlist, it will be interesting to see which books make it to the shortlist from here."
Indeed it will. The shortlist will be announced on 27th November in London. The winner will be declared at the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival in January 2015.
Bilal Tanweer: The Scatter Here is Too Great (Vintage Books / Random House, India)
Jaspreet Singh: Helium (Bloomsbury, India)
Jhumpa Lahiri: The Lowland (Vintage Books / Random House, India)
Kamila Shamsie: A God in Every Stone (Bloomsbury, India)
Khaled Hosseini: And the Mountains Echoed (Bloomsbury, India)
Meena Kandasamy: The Gypsy Goddess (Fourth Estate / Harper Collins, India)
Omar Shahid Hamid: The Prisoner (Pan Books / Pan Macmillan, India)
Romesh Gunesekera: Noontide Toll (Hamish Hamilton / Penguin, India)
Rukmini Bhaya Nair: Mad Girl’s Love Song (Harper Collins, India)Shamsur Rahman Faruqi: The Mirror of Beauty (Penguin Books, India)