The award ceremony for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2017 was held in Bangladesh for the first time on the closing day of the Dhaka Lit Festival. The winner was Sri Lankan writer Anuk Arudpragasam for his novel, The Story of a Brief Marriage, which is set in Sri Lanka during the last days of its civil war and the genocide of 2008-2009. In his award speech, Arudpragsam said he would donate one-third of the $25,000 award to organisations that work in the northeast of Sri Lanka, the Rohingya community whose plight is similar to that which his community faced for many years, and the Kashmir people who have been rendered adrift for many decades.
After the announcement, Dhaka Tribune caught up with the young writer.
Congratulations on your award.
How do you feel having won this award, now that you stand on a platform where you are able to speak up for other people that do not have a voice?
I don’t like to speak up for other people, you know, but I was given this money. I am from a community that was destroyed by a nation state. Also, across South Asia, there are similar people. So, it’s my duty. I don’t enjoy talking about it. I’m a writer, you know. But in this case, because it is the subject of my novel, it felt necessary.
This is your first time in Dhaka. How have the last three days been for you?
It’s been lovely. I wish I had more of a chance to see Dhaka, but we are so busy. I would love to come back to Dhaka and see the city and see the country a little bit. I didn’t get the opportunity. But yeah, the festival itself was lovely. I enjoyed it a lot. Yes, I had a good time.
What are you working on now? Another novel?
I’m working on another novel, yes.
No, it’s quite different. It has a lot less violence. It’s a lot more ordinary life.
Do you think an award can have an impact on a writer?
Receiving any kind of recognition is important for any author. You put in all this energy into your work and many hours. It’s important for that work to be recognised.