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India: Geetanjali Shree wins Booker Prize 2022 for “Tomb of Sand”

Wednesday 8 June 2022, by siawi3

Source: https://sabrangindia.in/article/geetanjali-shree-wins-booker-prize-2022

India:
Geetanjali Shree wins Booker Prize 2022!

While the academic community celebrates, “nationalists” stay oddly silent on the success of this Hindi writer

Sabrangindia

30 May 2022

First Indian Booker
Image Courtesy:aljazeera.com

National and global literary worlds alike have been abuzz with the news of Hindi writer Geetanjali Shree’s translated book ‘Tomb of Sand’ (Ret Samadhi) winning the International Booker Prize. Announced on May 26, 2022, this is the first time that the award recognised the mettle of a book translated from Hindi.

Translated by Daisy Rockwell, the book is also the first book written in any Indian language to receive the prestigious award. The story focuses on the adventures of an 80-year-old woman in northern India, who unexpectedly gains a new, and highly unconventional, lease of life. While her fifth book won the Booker Prize, her second novel ‘Hamara Shahar Us Baras’ is set loosely after the incidents of Babri Masjid demolition. Overall, Shree has written three novels and several story collections with many works translated into English, French, German, Serbian and Korean.

The news has been hailed by literary and academic groups especially Shree’s alma mater Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and student unions.

Even some politicians congratulated Shree for making her mark on the international level and providing India’s regional works their due limelight.

However, The Telegraph and The Wire pointed out how Prime Minister Narendra Modi refrained from congratulating the writer publicly. Although, Modi is known to hail any and every achievement made by India’s artists, sportspersons, health personnel, the BJP has largely stayed silent this time, barring a few exceptions.

The Telegraph suspected that the right-wing remains silent because of the Booker judges’ observations on the book such as how it is an “urgent and timely protest against the destructive impact of borders and boundaries, whether between religions, countries or genders.” Not to mention, Shree’s earlier views on the Babri Masjid and the Gujarat riots in her earlier books.

Speaking about Tomb of Sand to the Booker officials Shree said, “This is not just about me, the individual. I represent a language and culture and this recognition brings into larger purview the entire world of Hindi literature in particular and Indian literature as a whole.”

It is interesting how books providing such commentary about India are being acknowledged worldwide at a time when the BJP-led government is excluding such works from college syllabus. On August 26, 2021 the Delhi University agreed to remove Tamil Dalit feminist writers Bama, Sukhartharini and internationally acclaimed Mahasweta Devi’s writings, from the Semester 5 course. The committee claimed these exclusions were done to ensure that “no sentiments are hurt”. Similarly, SabrangIndia looked at how the right-wing was also trying to edit the school syllabus to suit its narrative.

When in reality, there are multiple regional writings that are yet to get proper recognition even in India. Many writers have spoken about the situation in north-east India, within the Dalit feminism community that are yet to reach the general public.

It is for this reason that the Mainpuri writer’s accomplishment is a topic of such pride in India for progressive groups. Tomb of Sand is the first of her books to be published in the UK. Aside from this, Shree has received and been shortlisted for a number of awards and fellowships.

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