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Geetanjali Shree is FIRST Hindi fiction to be shortlisted for International Bookers

By FnF Correspondent | PUBLISHED: 08, Apr 2022, 9:13 am IST | UPDATED: 08, Apr 2022, 9:13 am IST

Geetanjali Shree is FIRST Hindi fiction to be shortlisted for International Bookers

New Delhi: Author Geetanjali Shree's novel 'Tomb of Sand' on Thursday (April 8) became the first Hindi language work of fiction to be shortlisted for the International Booker Prize. Shree's book, translated into English by Daisy Rockwell and described by the judges as a "loud and irresistible novel", will compete with five other titles from around the world for the prestigious 50,000 pounds literary prize, which is split evenly between the author and translator.

"The (International) Booker is a very special recognition and I wasn't waiting for it, wasn't expecting it, so its coming is a wonderful surprise for me and recognition for our work -- what Daisy (Rockwell) my translator has done and my original work 'Ret Samadhi'," Shree told PTI. "It is such a wonderful ratification that it comes from the Booker committee, and it has come repeatedly, first they put me on the longlist and now the shortlist ... Of course, it takes a bit of time to sink in," said the 64-year-old author, hoping to attend the award ceremony in London on May 26 this year.

The other five titles on the shortlist announced at the London Book Fair 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 Pieiro, translated by Frances Riddle from Spanish; and 'The Books of Jacob' by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft from Polish.

"Translation is an intimate, intricate dance that crosses borders, cultures, and languages. There is little to compare to the awe and exhilaration of discovering a perfect pairing of writer and translator,? said Frank Wynne, chair of the judges and the first translator to lead the Booker judging panel. "As a jury we have had the pleasure of reading many extraordinary books, and choosing a shortlist from among them has been difficult and sometimes heartbreaking. These six titles from six languages explore the borders and boundaries of human experience, whether haunting and surreal, poignant and tender, or exuberant and capricious. In their differences, they offer glimpses of literature from around the world, but they all share fierce and breath-taking originality that is a testament to the endless inventiveness of fiction," he said.

For the first time in 2022, the shortlisted authors and translators will each receive 2,500 pounds, an increase from 1,000 pounds in previous years', bringing the total value of the prize to 80,000 pounds. "The constantly shifting perspectives and timeframes of Geetanjali Shree's inventive, energetic 'Tomb of Sand' lead us into every cranny of an 80-year-old woman's life and surprising past," the judges said of Geetanjali Shree's Hindi novel.

"Daisy Rockwell's spirited translation rises admirably to the complexity of the text, which is full of wordplay and verve. A loud and irresistible novel," they said

Keeping extremely busy after her novel created history by making it to the longlist of the International Booker Prize 2022, New Delhi-based Shree, author of three novels and several story collections, said a flood of congratulatory WhatsApp messages broke the good news to her. "I am not at home. I am out to attend a conference. I haven't opened my email, possibly there is mail from my publisher in London and so on. The sudden flood of WhatsApp messages from my translator and other people, who must have seen it online, is how I got to know about 'Tomb of Raid' making it to the shortlist," she said.

Shree, the Mainpuri, Uttar Pradesh-born author, whose work has been translated into several languages -- including English, French, German, Serbian, and Korean -- has received and been shortlisted for a number of awards and fellowships. "Tomb of Raid" is one of her first books to be published in the UK. Her translator, Daisy Rockwell, is a painter, writer and translator living in Vermont, US, who has translated a number of classic works of Hindi and Urdu literature.

The story of the novel is set in northern India as an 80-year-old woman slips into a deep depression after the death of her husband, then resurfaces to gain a new lease on life. To her family's consternation, she insists on travelling to Pakistan, simultaneously confronting the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of Partition, and re-evaluating what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a woman, a feminist.

"Rather than respond to tragedy with seriousness, Geetanjali Shree's playful tone and exuberant wordplay results in a book that is engaging, funny, and utterly original, at the same time as being an urgent and timely protest against the destructive impact of borders and boundaries, whether between religions, countries, or genders," the International Booker Prize judges note.

The judging panel is made up of Wynne (chair); author and academic Merve Emre; writer and lawyer Petina Gappah; writer, comedian, and TV, radio and podcast presenter, Viv Groskop; and translator and author Jeremy Tiang. This year the judges considered 135 books, with a record number of submissions received. Complementing the Booker Prize for Fiction, the international prize is awarded every year for a single book that is translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. The winner for 2022 will be announced at a ceremony in London on May 26.