Geetanjali Shree has won the International Booker Prize for the first time, making her the first Indian writer to do so.
Her work Tomb of Sand, a family drama set in the aftermath of India’s partition, follows an 80-year-old woman after her husband’s death. It was the first Hindi-language novel of India to make the £50,000 shortlist.
Ms. Shree stated, “I never dreamed of the Booker, I never imagined I could.” “What an enormous honor. I’m awestruck, overjoyed, honored, and humbled.” She stated it felt fantastic to be the first book in Hindi to receive the prize, according to the Press Trust of India, in her acceptance speech.
“There is a vast and flourishing literary history in Hindi and other South Asian languages behind me and this work. Knowing some of the best writers in these languages would enrich world literature.”
The judges were “captivated by the strength, the poignancy, and the fun” of the story, according to Frank Wynne, the chair of the panel. “This is a brilliant novel about India and division,” he observed, “but one whose mesmerizing brio and strong compassion knits youth and age, male and female, family and nation into a kaleidoscopic whole.”
He went on to say that he had never read anything like it, and that its “exuberance” and “passion” make it a book that “the world could use right now.” Shree and Daisy Rockwell, the book’s translator from the United States, will share the prize money.
Every year, the International Booker Prize is given to a book that has been translated into English and published in the United Kingdom or Ireland. This is distinct from the Man Booker Prize, which is awarded to English-language novels and has previously been won by Indian authors such as Arundhati Roy and Aravind Adiga.
Shree’s 725-page novel was up against Mieko Kawakami, Bora Chung, Jon Fosse, Claudia Pineiro, and past winner Olga Tokarczuk, who were all shortlisted. Shree, 64, was born in the Uttar Pradesh city of Mainpuri and is the author of three novels and several short story collections. Tomb of Sand is her first novel to be published in the United Kingdom.
It was first published in Hindi in 2018 under the title Ret Samadhi, and it follows Ma’s transformation following her husband’s death. She then decides to fly to Pakistan, where she will confront trauma she has carried with her since she was a girl who lived through the partition.
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