DSC Prize for South Asian Literature’s 2019 shortlist sees three new novelists – books


The wait is over! The much awaited shortlist for the US $25,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2019 was announced at the London School of Economics & Political Science.

The six novels which have been shortlisted are:

Amitabha Bagchi’s “Half the Night is Gone” which is about a novelist named Vishwanath who lost his son and now confronts the wreckage of his own life while seeking to make sense of the new India that came into being after independence.

Jamil Jan Kochai’s “99 Nights in Logar” which is about a 12 year old boy named Marwand who upon his return from the US loses his little finger to his family dog Budabash and then begins a hunt to find him after the dog escapes.

Madhuri Vijay’s “The Far Field” which is about a woman named Shalini who in the wake of her mother’s death sets out for a remote Himalayan village in the troubled northern region of Kashmir.

Manoranjan Byapari’s “There’s Gunpowder in the Air” which is set in the early seventies when the Naxalbari Movement was gathering strength in Bengal.

Raj Kamal Jha’s “The City and the Sea” which is about two women who despite being world’s apart embark on harrowing journeys through the lost and the missing, the living and the dead, until they meet in an ending that breaks the heart , and holds the promise putting it back together again.

Sadia Abbas’s “The Empty Room” which is set in the 1970s in Karachi, where violence and political and social uncertainty are on the rise. Amid such circumstances a talented painter named Tahira tries to hold her life together as it shatters around her.

The best part is that three debut and two women novelists made the cut this year. Another delighting factor is that the shortlisted novelists come from diverse backgrounds. The list includes four authors of Indian origin and one author each of Pakistani and Afghan origin.

Speaking on the occasion, Harish Trivedi, Chair of the jury said, “The shortlist that we have arrived at comprises six novels – for the good reason that the five jurors, located in five different countries, could not agree on just five novels. There are two women here, and three debut novelists including both the women. What is it about writing novels that one can get it so right the very first time of asking? Three of our writers live in South Asia and three live abroad – which fact may not come as a complete surprise. There is now a South Asia beyond South Asia. Two of the six novels are set partly in New Delhi, and partly in the surrounding countryside in one case, and in the other case partly on the Baltic coast. One of the novels is set in Pakistan of the 1970s, one in Kashmir, and one in Afghanistan. The sixth is actually set in a prison and was written originally in Bengali by an author who has actually served time and used that period to learn to read and write. That too is South Asia.”

The DSC Prize honours fiction writing about the South Asian region, which comprises India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The final winner will be announced at a special Award Ceremony on 16th December at the IME Nepal Literature Festival in Pokhara.

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