All eyes are on Dhaka Lit Fest in November as the festival is set to play host to the announcement of the DSC Prize 2017, the most coveted literary award for South Asian writing. This year’s international jury of the prestigious $25,000 award will disclose its winner at a special award-giving ceremony during the three-day literary extravaganza on the grounds of Bangla Academy.
“We are excited and honoured to be able to host the announcement of the winner of this year’s DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. As everyone knows, it is a prestigious international literary award that is specifically focused on South Asian writing. A much-revered prize in the literary world, one has to only look at the list of the past winners to get an idea of its high standards. We will have most of the shortlisted authors as well as the judges of this year’s prize participate in our festival, which is a wonderful addition to our programme,” said Ahsan Akbar, one of the directors of the festival.
“We welcome everyone to join the prize giving ceremony, which will be a special occasion and will be held on the final day of this year’s festival,” he added.
The nominees are …
This year, the five shortlisted novelists and their works vying for the prize are:
1. Anjali Joseph: The Living
2. Anuk Arudpragasam: The Story of a Brief Marriage
3. Aravind Adiga: Selection Day
4. Karan Mahajan: The Association of Small Bombs
5. Stephen Alter: In the Jungles of the Night
The shortlisted writers are an assorted mix of young novelists as well as established writers who have made their mark on the South Asian literary landscape. Three of them are Indians – Joseph, Adiga, and Mahajan – with Joseph and Mahajan based outside South Asia; Arudpragasam is Sri Lankan, and Alter is an American based in India.
Their novels are set in various geographical regions and topics: A shoe factory in England and a small town in Maharashtra; the Tamil-majority northern part of Sri Lanka during its civil war; a slum in Mumbai and a cricket field; the after-effect of a terrorist bomb in Delhi; and Jim Corbett’s life from a wildlife photographer in India to his final days in Kenya. But all of them have the South Asian region and its people as their central focus.
Who’s on the jury?
This year’s international jury panel includes Ritu Menon, jury chair and eminent feminist writer who has commented on a wide range of gender issues affecting the South Asian region; Valentine Cunningham, Professor Emeritus of English language and Literature at Oxford University, UK who has authored several books on Victorian fiction and poetry; Steven Bernstein, celebrated screenwriter, director, author, cinematographer and lecturer based out of Los Angeles, USA; Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, respected journalist, radio and television broadcaster, based in London who has written extensively on society, culture and feminism; and Senath Walter Perera, Senior Professor in English, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka whose research deals with diasporic and postcolonial literature of the region.
The jury selected the best works of fiction on the South Asian region out of 60+ works submitted for the prize earlier this year. They announced a shortlist on September 27 in London from a longlist of 13 talented writers. They had announced the longlist in August at Oxford Bookstore in New Delhi.
The longlist featured three debut novels and two translated entries from Tamil and Malayalam respectively. It showcased writers from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Whether living in or outside the South Asian region, all of them deftly explore South Asian lives, identities and cultures.
Aside from the shortlisted ones, the longlist included Anosh Irani’s “The Parcel”; Ashok Ferrey’s “The Ceaseless Chatter of Demons”; Hirsh Sawhney’s “South Haven”; KR Meera’s “The Poison of Love” (Translated by Ministhy S); Omar Shahid Hamid’s “The Party Worker”; Perumal Murugan’s “Pyre” (Translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan); Sarvat Hasin’s “This Wide Night”; and Shahbano Bilgrami’s “Those Children.”
At the unveiling of the longlist, Jury Chair Ritu Menon was quoted as saying, “Speaking for myself, it was also a great pleasure to read this year’s submissions, remarkable for their range, energy and generational sweep. As a jury, we were struck by several exceptional qualities in the novels selected: their inventiveness and creativity, both of subject matter and in literary treatment. We admired the maturity and humanity of the perspective they brought to bear on their characters, and the delicacy of their observations on difficult or troubled situations. We were beguiled by their wit and humour, as well as impressed by the versatility of their skill when dealing with history. And we were reminded that, although the writers’ preoccupations may be universal and their sensibility cosmopolitan, their voices are distinctly South Asian.”
What is the DSC Prize?
The DSC award is described as a celebration of the rich and varied world of literature of South Asia. It has an openness that is rarely seen in the submission guidelines of many other major literary awards. Ethnicity or nationality is not a barrier for a writer to be eligible for submitting his/her works. Any writer from any corner of the world can submit his/her work of fiction as long as it explores the South Asian region in terms of content and theme.
The prize was established in 2010 by founder Surina Narula with the aim of bringing South Asian writing to a new global audience through a celebration of the achievements of South Asian writers and raising awareness of South Asian culture around the world.
Previous winners of the award include HM Naqvi, Shehan Karunatilaka, Jeet Thayil, Cyrus Mistry and Jhumpa Lahiri.
In preparing this article, information collected from the official DSC website has been made use of