First it was Shehan Karunatilaka who bagged the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature with ‘Chinaman’. Now yet another Sri Lankan writer, Nayomi Munaweera is in the limelight with her novel ‘Island of a Thousand Mirrors’ which has been shortlisted for the 2014 DSC Prize. The book has previously been longlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize. It has also won the Commonwealth Regional Book Award for Asia.
Nayomi will be competing against three Indians and two Pakistanis in her race for the DSC Prize. The jury chose 15 titles for the longlist from over 65 entries earlier last year. Ru Freeman’s ‘On Sal Mal Lane’ and Shyam Selvadurai’s ‘The Hungry Ghosts’ were among those longlisted for the prize. They then cut it down to six winning titles which were announced on November 2013 at The Shaw Library in the London School of Economics (LSE).
Among this year’s crop, ‘Goat Days’ by Malayalam Indian writer Benyamin won the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2012. British Pakistani novelist Nadeem Aslam and Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid were both previously nominated for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award with ‘Maps for Lost Lovers’ and ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’.
“We chose six beautiful books from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, each a window opening onto the complexity of the South Asian experience,” the DSC Prize jury chair Antara Dev Sen said.
A session at one of the previous DSC Jaipur Literature Festivals
The DSC Prize which was established in 2010 by DSC Limited, is given to a full-length work of fiction in English language with a South Asian theme. It carried an award of US $50,000 for the winner to honour the best writing about the South Asian region. Since the time of its inception, the DSC Prize has significantly impacted and drawn the focus of the world towards South Asian literature and the authors writing about the region.
The award is also unique since it is not ethnicity driven in terms of the author’s origin. It is open to any author belonging to any part of the globe as long as the work is based on the South Asian region and its people. This is a feature which sets the DSC Prize apart from other literature awards like the Man Asian Literary Prize and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize.
Novels and novellas comprising at least 25,000 words are eligible for the prize. In case a translated entry wins the award, the prize money would be shared equally between the author and the translator. Self published work are not accepted.
Now in its fourth edition the prize has gone to writers from three different countries during the past three years: HM Naqvi from Pakistan (Homeboy: Harper Collins, India), Shehan Karunatilaka from Sri Lanka (Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep, Random House, India) and Jeet Thayil from India (Narcopolis, Faber & Faber, London).
There has been a 45 percent growth in the number of entries received for the 2014 DSC Prize as compared to the inaugural DSC Prize 2011, with about a quarter of the entries coming in from UK, USA, Canada and Australia to supplement the entries from the South Asian countries.
The DSC Prize jury panel 2014 comprises editor, writer and literary critic Antara Dev Sen, eminent Indian translator, writer and teacher Arshia Sattar, MD of Oxford University Press in Pakistan Ameena Saiyid, British journalist and editor Rosie Boycott and veteran bookseller and one of the top names in the book trade in the US Paul Yamazaki.
Commenting about the books included in the shortlist Sen said that the books that have been chosen opens a window into people whose identities have been shaped by violence of poverty, conflict, terrorism, migration, caste prejudice and gender discrimination.
“We were forced to abandon some superbly crafted, smart and stylish novels as we chose the final six. These offer the heart of South Asia in all its cultural, linguistic, ethnic and religious diversity. We have two novels in translation and a book by a new woman writer. We trust this shortlist offers a glimpse of the enormous power and variety of South Asian fiction,” she added.
The winner will be announced at the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival which will take place from January 17 to 21.
2014 prize contenders
‘Anand’s The Book of Destruction’ (Translated by Chetana Sachidanandan; Penguin, India)- Translated from Malayalam it deals with murder committed for the sake of killing.
‘Benyamin’s Goat Days’(Translated by Joseph Koyippalli; Penguin, India) – Another work translated from Malayalam the book handles migration in search of a better life.
‘Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer’ by Cyrus Mistry (Aleph Book Company, India) – The book weaves a tale of star-crossed love experienced by those who inhabit the unforgiving margins of history.
‘How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia’ by Mohsin Hamid (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin, India)- This is a satire on exactly what the title says.
‘Blind Man’s Garden’ by Nadeem Aslam (Random House, India) – The book revolves around a tale of two brothers in Pakistan and Afghanistan whose lives twine in the months following the 9/11 terror attack.
‘Island of a Thousand Mirrors’ by Nayomi Munaweera (Perera Hussein Publishing, Sri Lanka) – The story follows the fate of those caught in the terrorist era.