Five greatest novels of 2018 demonstrate the universal ambition of contemporary Indian fiction
The JCB Prize for Literature’s inaugural shortlist of five distinguished novels by Indian writers was announced today. Varied in their themes and settings, the novels nonetheless share an ambition: to reveal as-yet-undiscovered worlds through powerfully drawn scenes and characters.
Launched earlier this year, the JCB Prize for Literature was open for entries until May 31st2018. On September 5th, after months of reading and evaluation, the jury announced a long list of ten novels. All of which displayed a great diversity of contemporary Indian writing. After that, the jury convened once more to determine the shortlist.
What the Jury Said
The jury’s statement said, “In their different ways, these five novels all depict the collision of richly contemplative beings with the rapidly changing outer world. As such they stand as an eloquent record of our moment in history, and we feel they will be read for decades to come.”
Authors of the five shortlisted novels will each receive Rs one lakh; their translators will receive Rs 50,000. The final award – India’s richest, at Rs 25 lakh – will be presented to the writer of the winning novel on October 24th; if the winning work is a translation, the translator will also receive an additional of Rs five lakh.
The JCB Prize for Literature 2018 shortlist:
|Half the Night is Gone (Juggernaut Books)||Amitabha Bagchi|
|Jasmine Days (Juggernaut Books)||Author: Benyamin, Translator: Shahnaz Habib|
|Poonachi (Westland Publications)||Author: Perumal Murugan, Translator: N. Kalyan Raman|
|All the Lives We Never Lived (Hachette Book Publishing)||Anuradha Roy|
|Latitudes of Longing (HarperCollins Publishers India)||Shubhangi Swarup|
Translations in the Spotlight
Two of these novels are translations. Poonachior The Story of a Black Goat was written in Tamil and translated by N. Kalyan Raman, who has made much contemporary Tamil poetry and fiction accessible in English. Jasmine Days was translated from the Malayalam by Shahnaz Habib, a poet and writer based in the United States. The shortlist also features a debut novel: Latitudes of Longing by Shubhangi Swarup.
Vivek Shanbhag, chair of the jury, said, “The job of literature is to supply a language for reality, and these books are all exquisite in their description of the worlds – often very turbulent worlds – we inhabit. But literature is also a record of the sensitivity of the observer – and these novels are a testament to the beauty and richness of human experience.”
JURY COMMENTS ON THE SHORTLISTED BOOKS
Half the Night is Gone
“Amitabha Bagchi’s novel explores the inner and outer lives of the men in two families, one rich, one working class. It gently but perceptively explores their vanities and their failures, and the deeply-rooted passions that drive to make the choices that they do. Half the Night is Gone demonstrates a deep understanding of masculinity and will surely be read for decades to come.”
“Through the life of a young protagonist, Jasmine Days describes the lives of foreign workers in a Middle East country on the brink of a revolution. Beautifully written and translated, this compassionate and morally complex novel confronts some of the difficult questions of our times.”
“Funny and warm, Poonachi is a book that forces us gently to look at ourselves and our contribution to an unequal world. Perumal Murugan is a master story-teller who reflects profoundly on our transactional society and its inequities and struggles. Through the character of the lonely goat, he has written a powerful modern fable.”
All the Lives We Never Lived
“This beautiful novel, set in the Southeast Asia of the 1930s, evokes beautiful imagery of places and landscapes. It does its work quietly and with great subtlety, but it is a novel of big ideas.”
Latitudes of Longing
“Lyrical, original and heartbreaking, Latitudes of Longing is a vast novel. In order to write in such detail about so many locations, the author obviously had to do a great amount of research. Yet it has the ring of total authenticity. A wonderful book which, with the landscape, earth and sea as principal characters, seemed to invent a genre all of its own: ecological fiction.”
Watch this space for future, final winner announcements!
To know more about The JCB Prize for Literature, please visit: www.thejcbprize.org