Sri Lankan author Anuk Arudpragasam has won the prestigious DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2017 with his debut novel “The Story of a Brief Marriage.”
The announcement was made at the closing ceremony of the three-day long Dhaka Literary Festival at Bangla Academy on Saturday.
The novel is based on a story at a displaced people’s camp during the civil war in Sri Lanka where the author narrates the plight of people caught in the violence during the war eight years back.
The opening sequence of the novel, which was read out by the author, describes how a young man carrying a six-year-old - injured in a land mine explosion - to an open-air operation theatre, found solace in telling the child that soon the doctor would arrive and commence the operation.
“ ... and in no time at all the arm would be as nicely healed as the already amputated thigh,” the author read out, who later announced that he would donate one-third of his $25,000 prize money to the affected people in Sri Lanka, Kashmir and the displaced Rohingyas in the recent violence.
“It feels a little insincere to celebrate this award because my novel is about something so tragic,” he said.
The other short-listed four novels were “Selection Day” by Aravind Adiga, “The Living” by Anjali Joseph, “The Association of Small Bombs” by Karan Mahajan and “In the Jungles of the Night: A Novel about Jim Corbett” by Stephen Alter.
Jury member Ritu Menon said the task of picking the victorious book was not easy, but was very pleasant nonetheless. She said all the books carried the distinct voice of South Asia, while announcing the winner.
The DSC Prize for South Asian Literature recognises and honours authors of any and all ethnicity and nationality, given the subject of their writing is South Asian culture, politics, history and people.
DSC Prize co-founder Surina Narula addressed the event, saying that South Asian literature is very similar because of the shared history, religion and culture.
DSC Group Chairman HS Narula said Dhaka Lit Festival has been showing tremendous spirit since it started its journey.
“I think it will be a premium event in the region with its passion,” he said.
Ahsan Akbar, one of the directors of Dhaka Lit Fest, said the five shortlisted writers are all winners.
Sadaf Saaz, another director, said it was no easy task to continue the annual literary festival in the wake of all the murders of bloggers and free thinkers.
She said it took great effort on part of some great people, which finally led to the 2017 Dhaka Lit Fest.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith attended the event as chief guest. He said: “Dhaka Lit Fest has become an international phenomenon. Even though it is rooted in South Asia, authors are coming from all over the world.”