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Eye on the prize – mumbai guide


Bringing much anticipation and excitement, the season for literary prizes is here. Even during the pandemic, through the year, announcements for the winners of the Booker Prize for Fiction, National Book Awards and India’s own JCB Prize for Literature, and more, will find their way through our screens. So, we invited five authors to not only share titles, they hope, take the prize but also those they wish to see recognised.

Rooting for:

Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi
Shortlisted for The Booker Prize for Fiction

Devapriya Roy

Girl in White Cotton [published in the UK as Burnt Sugar] sucked me in from its very first sentence. I remember I was in Bhopal for some work when I read the book, and the hotel room disappeared and I found myself in Poona, where the novel is set. The prose is luminous and I appreciated its formal perfection: the ending, for instance, is the most perfect one that I have encountered lately.

With the Indian literary awards, I have begun to work my way through the shortlists, and while I have not made up my mind yet on my absolute favourite, my hope is that the awards will go to locally published literary fiction — whether in English or translation — over the big, global titles that get so much publicity anyway.

– Devapriya Roy

In Search of Heer by Manjul Bajaj
Longlisted for the JCB Prize for Literature

Rochelle Potkar

Although all books on this list are riveting, Manjul’s work is intriguing because of its incisive tapestry and absorbing symphonic prose, where she reopens a legendary story world — that of Heer Syal and Deedho Ranjha — lovers from Punjab, through an inquiry of love and sexuality from six differing viewpoints: those of Deedho’s, Heer’s, a crow’s, a pigeon’s, a goat’s, and a camel’s — motifs pegged at temporal milestones.

The story of In Search of Heer is brought forth with breath-taking vision and linguistic lyricism.

– Rochelle Potkar

Undertow by Jahnavi Barua
Longlisted for the JCB Prize for Literature

Anukrti Upadhyay

I am rooting for Undertow for the beautiful portrayal of Assam and the lyrical way in which the Brahmaputra is incorporated into the story of a woman on a personal quest; it is like a river flowing through the narrative as it flows through lush Assam. And Avni Doshi’s Burnt Sugar for the difficult theme of a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship and the way Avni has handled it — candidly and preserving nuance.

– Anukrti Upadhyay

Deserves recognition:

Jerry Pinto

Aranyaka by Amruta Patil and Devdutt Pattanaik
We have a slight Patrician suspicion of graphic novels which we need to dispel. We need to acknowledge the role of sensuousness in the reading experience. We need to talk about our forests, because we are cutting them down ruthlessly (see Mollem in Goa) and we are paying the price (see SARS, Ebola, Covid). We need to remember that women come in different shapes and colours. And we need to say: Amruta Patil has created something of rare beauty, dignity and with a strong social message.

– Jerry Pinto

Sharanya Manivannan

Vanni by Benjamin Dix and Lindsay Pollock
This is a very sensitive depiction of Tamil life and loss in the north and northeast of Sri Lanka as the civil war was ending in 2009. It’s extremely impressive how unflinchingly it portrays horrific realities without fetishising the conflict, something too many creatives have been guilty of.

– Sharanya Manivannan

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