Anticipation around the new DSC Prize for South Asian Literature continued to rise last night as the shortlist was announced at a prestigious gala dinner at London's Globe Theatre. Longlisted authors, publishers, London's literati and ambassadors from the South Asian region gathered together for the event, which was also the finale of the 2010 DSC South Asian Literature Festival in London.
After intense deliberation over the longlist comprising 16 books, the eminent Jury, chaired by Nilanjana S Roy along with renowned literary figures Lord Matthew Evans, Ian Jack, Amitava Kumar, and Moni Mohsin, selected the shortlist for this major new award. The DSC Prize for South Asian Literature has a prize value of $50,000 for the best writing about the South Asian region. The shortlisted entries for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature are:
- Amit Chaudhuri: The Immortals (Picador India)
- Musharraf Ali Farooqui: The Story of a Widow (Picador India)
- Tania James: Atlas Of Unknowns (Pocket Books)
- Manju Kapur: The Immigrant (Faber & Faber)
- Neel Mukherjee: A Life Apart (Constable & Robinson)
- HM Naqvi: Home Boy (HarperCollins India)
Speaking on the occasion, Chairperson of the Jury, Nilanjana S Roy said, "As we finalised our shortlist, the criteria that was uppermost in our minds was DSC's mandate to look for the best and the most interesting examples of the contemporary novel set in, or about, South Asia. In different ways, as we argued the merits of the final six contenders, all of us rediscovered the pleasures of reading - a pleasure that we hope will be shared by all readers, wherever they come from.
Moni Mohsin was taken, as we all were, by the rich variety of experiences that one gets from these novels; Ian Jack commented that the South Asian novel today seems to have found its voice - often, its multiple and very varied voices. For Lord Matthew Evans, reading the novels submitted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature was a welcome reminder of how much things had changed from the era when Britain and America exported books to India and Pakistan. With a rising publishing industry in South Asia, what we were now seeing, in his words, was knowledge and creative thinking being "exported" to other parts of the world. Amitava Kumar commented on how the South Asian novel may have some of the old tropes - spices, and servants, and glossaries--but had moved beyond these, with authors now writing departures from the familiar.
The six novels on the shortlist take us from quiet, deeply rooted, intimate stories, such as Musharraf Ali Farooqui's Story of a Widow to explorations of history past and present, as in Neel Mukherjee's A Life Apart, which moves from contemporary London to pre-Independence Bengal. The old immigrant narrative is wide enough to accommodate Manju Kapur's precise, moving analysis of a marriage between two immigrants, one an old hand, one new, to America; Tania James' exploration of the diverse choices two sisters face as one stays home and one struggles with a new identity; and H M Naqvi's brash, swaggering post 9/11 saga. Each novel on this list has a distinctive voice, as with Amit Chaudhuri's exploration of the worlds of musicians and aspiring singers in The Immortals, and taken collectively, they represent some of the finest and most rewarding of the work produced by novelists about South Asia."
The DSC Prize for South Asian Literature is a first-of-its-kind initiative as it is specifically focused on the richness and diversity of South Asian writing. The prize is also unique since it is not ethnicity driven in terms of the author's origin and is open to any author belonging to any part of the globe as long as the work is based on the South Asian region and its people.
The DSC Prize initiative has been guided by an international Advisory Committee comprising MJ Akbar, Urvashi Butalia, Tina Brown, William Dalrymple, Lord Meghnad Desai, David Godwin, Surina Narula, Senath Walter Perera, Nayantara Sehgal and Michael Worton.
Thanking the Jury, Mr Manhad Narula, Director, DSC Limited said, "Shortlisting six books from 16 can never be an easy task especially if all 16 authors are powerhouses of literary talent. The jury for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature must be applauded for executing this responsibility and narrowing the nominations to the most deserving six. This shortlist announced here at the DSC South Asian Literature Festival, brings us one exciting step closer to the winner of this prestigious prize."
The winner of the first DSC Prize for South Asian Literature will be declared at the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival in January 2011. The prize will be awarded for the best work of fiction pertaining to the South Asian region, published in English, including translations into English.
More information here.