Indian author Geetanjali Shree and American translator Daisy Rockwell have won the International Booker Prize for the Hindi novel ‘Tomb of Sand’, a first for an Indian-language book.
The prestigious prize of £50,000 ($63,000, 59,000 euros) is awarded to fiction from around the world translated into English and shared between the author and the translator.
The novel is set in northern India and follows an 80-year-old woman dealing with her unresolved trauma experienced as a teenager during the 1947 partition with Pakistan.
The judges praised “an engaging, funny and utterly original book, at the same time as an urgent and timely protest against the destructive impact of borders and boundaries, whether between religions, countries or genders” .
Jury foreman Frank Wynne said the novel “has an exuberance, life, power and passion that the world can demonstrate at this time”.
It is the third novel by New Delhi-based Shree, and her first to be published in the UK.
Born in 1957, her works have been translated into English, French, German, Serbian and Korean.
“It’s not just about me, the individual,” Shree said.
“I represent a language and a culture and this recognition expands the reach of the whole world of Hindi literature in particular and Indian literature as a whole.”
Rockwell is based in Vermont in the United States and has translated several classic works of the 20th century into Hindi and Urdu.
“Tomb of Sand” was “one of the most difficult I’ve ever translated due to the experimental nature of Geetanjali’s writing and his unique use of language,” Rockwell said.
Born in 1969, Rockwell is a painter and writer who only translates women “after getting fed up with the male gaze, the misogyny,” she said on Twitter.
Others shortlisted for the prize, awarded Thursday evening in London, included Polish Nobel laureate in literature Olga Tokarczuk, Argentina’s Claudia Pineiro and Norway’s Jon Fosse.