Rhea Mogul, CNN
Indian author Geetanjali Shree has won the International Booker Prize — making her the first writer from the South Asian nation to claim the prestigious literary award.
Shree’s winning novel, “Tomb of Sand,” follows an 80-year-old woman as she gains a new lease on life following the death of her husband. Set in the shadow of the 1947 partition of India, Shree explores themes of trauma, motherhood and feminism.
Translated from Hindi to English by Daisy Rockwell, the book is the first in an Indian language to win the award, which recognizes fiction translated into English and published in the United Kingdom or Ireland.
The International Booker Prize is separate from the Booker Prize, which is awarded to novels written in English. In 1997, Indian author Arundhati Roy became the first Indian to win the Booker Prize for her novel, “The God of Small Things.”
Shree and American translator Rockwell will split the £50,000 ($63,000) prize money.
“I never dreamed of the Booker, I never thought I could,” Shree said during her acceptance speech in London on Thursday. “What a huge recognition. I am amazed, delighted, honored and humbled.”
The chair of judges, Frank Wynne, said the book has “an exuberance and a life, a power and a passion, which the world could do with right now.”
“This is a luminous novel of India and partition, but one whose spellbinding brio and fierce compassion weaves youth and age, male and female, family and nation into a kaleidoscopic whole,” Wynne said.
Writer, critic and broadcaster, Viv Groskop, called it “a real masterclass in narrative, in exploring identity and a brilliant look at family relationships.”
Born in 1957 in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, Shree has written three novels and several short story collections. Her work has been translated into English, French, German, Serbian and Korean.
“Tomb of Sand” is the first of her books to be published in the UK.
Rockwell called it “one of the most difficult” works she has ever translated because of the “experimental nature of Geetanjali’s writing” and “unique use of language.”
Shree said her recognition “brings into larger purview the entire world of Hindi literature” and in particular, “Indian literature as a whole.”
“It also brings into view the fact that there is a vast world of literature with rich lineages which still needs to be discovered,” she said in an interview on the Booker Prize website. “I am pleased and humbled to be the conduit for this.”
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