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Khushboo Sharma

IWB Blogger

Rana Dasgupta Talks About The Revolution That The JCB Literature Award Aims To Bring About

  • IWB Post
  •  April 14, 2018

How many of us stand guilty of using the Booker or the Pulitzer winning Indian novels as the touchstones for good Indo-Anglian literature? It is rather a little tricky to ascertain what appeals our Indian sensibilities the best based on some foreign prizes I believe. Well, the tidings of new era in Indian literature have come with the announcement of two big literary awards launched earlier this month.

JCB Prize extends an award money of Rs 25 Lakhs and is the big award that India has always needed. It has been financed by the eponymous British construction equipment manufacturing firm. The New India Foundation Prize is the other award. It is to be extended for non-fiction. This one is valued at Rs 15 lakhs.

Grand plans have been made for the JCB Prize. The books shortlisted for the award would also be awarded a prize money of Rs.1 lakh. To add to it, a separate prize of Rs 5 lakh would be awarded to the translator in case the winning entry is a translation. The campaign would be publicized extensively on radio and television.

The New India Foundation Prize will be given to the best non-fiction book about modern/contemporary India every year.

Rana Dasgupta is the author and director of the JCB Prize. Recently, at the prize launch, he spoke about the revolution that the prize aims to bring about. “We want the books talked about and sold outside bookshops, we want to create new Indian literary superstars,” Dasgupta said.

Dasgupta explained the purpose of the prize: “The prize imagines a world that doesn’t exist yet, where Indian readers know what is going on in every language. It implies a new kind of India, where people know far more about what other people are thinking, writing. We don’t know that very well because we’re not reading each other. This prize is part of the attempt to create that.”

Harper Collins India publisher Diya Kar Hazra said, “The two prizes that have been recently announced, the New India Foundation Prize and the JCB Prize, are fantastic initiatives. There aren’t enough serious prizes in the subcontinent that reward and recognise. These will encourage writers and good writing, and contribute greatly to literature centred on the subcontinent.”

“Indian literature prizes haven’t been bigger than the literature scene. And with that space shrinking, and the diminishing impact by an individual book, the impact of a literary prize is decreasing too,” said translator Arunava Sinha.

The jury of the JCB award includes the likes of filmmaker Deepa Mehta, founder of the Murty Classical Library of India, Rohan Murty, astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan; and author and translator Arshia Sattar and author Vivek Shanbag.

Talking about the new prize, Shanbag said, “A prize brings lot of attention to the book, more people read it and it is discussed. All that is good for a book. JCB Prize will help writers in English.”

H/T: Hindustan Times

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