May 30, 2022 - 4:31 am

Geetanjali Shree : The First-Ever Indian Winner Of The International Booker Prize

     The first-ever Indian winner of the International Booker Prize, Geetanjali Shree, has had a roller coaster few days since her Hindi novel ‘Ret Samadhi' won the coveted literary honour for its English translation ‘Tomb of Sand' translated by Daisy Rockwell. It was the first Hindi-language book to be shortlisted for the £50,000 prize – which is split between author and translator equally – not only marks the award’s first Hindi winner, but also the first time a book originally written in any Indian language has won. Rockwell is a painter, writer and translator living in Vermont, US. It is also the first from South Asia (though several South Asian authors have won the Booker Prize, the corollary for books originally written in English).

    Born in 1957 in the city of Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh state, the Delhi-based author Shree, 64, is the author of three novels and several story collections. Her works have been translated into English, French, German, Serbian, and Korean. Tomb of Sand is the first of her books to be published in the UK. Published in Hindi in 2018 with the title Ret Samadhi, it traces the transformative journey of Ma, who becomes depressed after the death of her husband. She then decides to travel to Pakistan, confronting trauma that has remained unresolved since she was a teenager who survived the partition, and re-evaluates what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a woman and a feminist. "Tomb of Sand" is published in Britain by small publisher Tilted Axis Press. It was founded by translator Deborah Smith -- who won the 2016 International Booker for translating Han Kang's "The Vegetarian" -- to publish books from Asia.

    At 725 pages, the English translation runs almost double of the Hindi original, something the translator attributes to the “mysterious way" the two languages are different. But that Shree and Rockwell are perfectly in sync is obvious when they complete each other's sentences and describe their coming together as a “kismet connection’’. But the process did involve many "friendly" debates on phraseology, starting with the title itself. The very act of submitting to a translation, therefore, implies some risk on the part of an author, but Shree isn't too daunted by it as long as she feels she can trust the translator to capture the “atma” or spirit of the work. Her next work, which she is not disclosing yet, is almost ready to be handed over to the publishers after she has emerged from the Booker Prize frenzy.

    ‘Tomb of Sand', the first of her books to be published in the UK in English and which she has described as an elegy for the world we inhabit, impressed the Booker judges with its “playful tone and exuberant wordplay”. The book now travels to the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts in Wales this weekend and the Jaipur Literature Festiva in London next month, before Shree heads back to Delhi to her nearly finished manuscript.

    The international prize complements the Booker Prize for Fiction, and is awarded every year for a single book that is translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. The author books in the shortlist this year were: ‘Cursed Bunny' by Bora Chung, ‘A New Name: Septology VI-VII' by Jon Fosse, ‘Heaven' by Mieko Kawakami, ‘Elena Knows' by Claudia Pineiro and ‘The Books of Jacob' by Olga Tokarczuk. The 2021 prize was won by At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop, translated by Anna Moschovakis. It marked the first time a French novelist had won the award.

    All of human history, literature, art, thought, politics have been at the service of this tale that's telling itself - and while it may often appear that Ms Shree is playing with words for the sake of word play, and that her digressions are asides, in the end nothing turns out to be self-indulgent or extraneous. Tomb of Sand is one of the most difficult works she has ever translated because of the "experimental nature" of Shree's writing and "her unique use of language".

Questions and Answers Questions and Answers

Question : Who translated Tomb of Sand?
Answers : Daisy Rockwell
Question : How many prizes did the first Hindi book be shortlisted for?
Answers : $50,000
Question : Where is Rockwell's book originally written in English?
Answers : South Asia
Question : Who is the first Indian winner of the International Booker Prize?
Answers : Geetanjali Shree
Question : What languages have Shree's works been translated into?
Answers : English, French, German, Serbian, and Korean
Question : What is the name of the first Hindi book to be published in the UK?
Answers : Tomb of Sand
Question : What is the name of the Hindi novel written by Geetanjali Shree?
Answers : Ret Samadhi
Question : Who publishes Tomb of Sand in Britain?
Answers : Tilted Axis Press
Question : How many pages does the English translation run almost double of the Hindi original?
Answers : 725
Question : What was Shree's first book to be published in the UK?
Answers : Tomb of Sand
Question : Which book was the first to be published in the UK in English?
Answers : Tomb of Sand
Question : Who wrote the book Heaven?
Answers : Mieko Kawakami