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Not the JCB / DSC / Hindu / Crossword prize longlist (or, you be the jury of this ‘literary award’)

By September 7, 2018No Comments

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Reader, we did our own longlist for you to vote for.

This year has seen the launch of two new literary prizes in India – The Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay New India Foundation Book Prize for non-fiction and the JCB Prize for Literature for fiction. While these are undoubtedly positive developments for publishing, literary awards remain hemmed in by the limits of a longlist and the tastes of a jury.

So, let’s stir it up a bit. Similar to The Guardian’s Not The Booker longlist, which aims to celebrate a wider collection of fiction than the Man Booker allows, this longlist reaches beyond this season’s awards to acknowledge the diversity and ambition of fiction from in and around the country.

The longlist includes twenty-five novels from thirteen different publishers. Cast your vote until September 15 for the best novel in English or translated into English and read more about the novels in the running below:

The Empty Room, Sadia Abbas (Zubaan)
This story of a marriage in Karachi in the 1970s becomes a portal through which to witness oppressive but evolving social norms in arranged marriages as well as to understand a turbulent decade in Pakistan’s history.

The Snake and The Lotus, Appupen (Westland)
In the latest instalment of Appupen’s Halahala novels, The Snake and The Lotus explores the fight between the natural world and the city, between consumerism and environmental concerns, in the mythical realm of Halahala.

Half The Night Is Gone, Amitabha Bagchi (Juggernaut)
Set in New Delhi, Half The Night tells the intertwined stories of three generations of a family of merchants and a family of workers employed by the former. These stories are accompanied by a series of four letters by an acclaimed Hindi novelist.

Jasmine Days, Benyamin, translated by Shahnaz Habib (Juggernaut)
Set in an unnamed Middle Eastern city, Jasmine Days follows the story of a young woman whose family has migrated from Pakistan. Her seemingly blessed life as a radio jockey is shattered when revolution shakes the country.

The Revenge Of The Non-Vegetarian, Upamanyu Chatterjee (Speaking Tiger)
A bureaucrat is posted to a small town where he is horrified to learn of an unofficial meat policy in his locality. He sets about using an illicit system of procuring meat, fish and eggs through a junior officer until the officer’s house is set on fire.

In Our Mad And Furious CityGuy Gunaratne (Tinder Press/Hachette India)

Set over the course of 48 hours, the Sri Lankan-British writer Gunaratne’s debut explores the communal tensions that erupt in a Northern London estate after the murder of an off-duty soldier by a black Muslim man. The friendship of three young men of colour is at the heart of this London novel narrated entirely by first and second-generation immigrants.

Djinn City, Saad Z Hossain (Aleph Book Company)
Indelbad is a ten-year-old boy in Dhaka who has grown up believing that his mother died because of him, and his father is by all accounts an ordinary man. But when his father is put into a supernatural coma and he is hunted by djinns, he must come to terms with how little he knew about either of them.

Night Of Happiness, Tabish Khair (Pan Macmillan India)
Night of Happiness revolves around the relationship between a wealthy Hindu businessman and his trusted working-class Muslim employee. When the businessman becomes more curious about his employee’s secretive life, he begins to investigate further and isn’t prepared for what he finds.

Poonachi, Perumal Murugan, translated by N Kalyan Raman (Westland)
Perumal Murugan’s first novel after his writing hiatus because of threats over One Part Woman, it traces the life an orphaned black goat who is adopted by an elderly couple. The trials of Poonachi’s life tell a larger story about hierarchies, love, desire and death.

Jasoda, Kiran Nagarkar (HarperCollins India)
Set in rural Kantagiri, Jasoda follows a woman by the same name who must make horrifying choices in order to survive a life as the sole breadwinner for her children, an abusive husband, and her mother-in-law.

Foxy Aesop, Suniti Namjoshi (Zubaan)
Sprite, a fabulist from the future travels back in time to meet Aesop, the sixth century Greek slave to understand how he wrote his timeless fables and why he didn’t make more of an effort to save the world with his writing, even as he tries to make up his stories and live his life.

The Wounds of the Dead, Vikram Paralkar (HarperCollins India)
A surgeon runs a small clinic in rural Maharashtra, and is visited by a family of three dead people who ask him to mend their wounds, so they may return to life. Wounds is a blend of surgical medicine, philosophy, and magic realism that draws upon the author’s life as an oncologist.

The Nine-Chambered Heart, Janice Pariat (HarperCollins India)
Nine voices gather in The Nine-Chambered Heart to piece together a portrait of one young woman whom they have loved or who has loved them.

The Librarian, Kavitha Rao (Kitaab)
The story of a young woman whose refuge and temple is a library in Bombay. After she returns from a three-month scholarship in London, she has barely settled back into Bombay when her world and that of the library is disrupted in the wake of the 2008 terrorist attacks.

Polite Society, Mahesh Rao (Penguin India)
Polite Society reinvents Jane Austen’s Emma for a South Delhi setting that shows how wealth, power, and marriage are powerful currencies amongst the richest people in the city who strive to remain as exclusive and insular as possible.

Girls Burn Brighter, Shobha Rao (Hachette India)
Girls Burn Brighter begins in a quiet village where two girls, Savitha and Poornima, become friends as they spin cotton sarees together. When Savitha mysteriously disappears, Poornima has to travel the dangerous routes of India’s criminal networks to retrace her friend’s steps.

All The Lives We Never Lived, Anuradha Roy (Hachette India)
Roy tells the story of an artist in a privileged, relatively modern marriage in 1930s India who nevertheless is stopped from painting and dancing – two art forms that allow her to feel like herself. Her son narrates her story as an old man who hasn’t seen the mother who ran away when he was a very young boy.

Missing, Sumana Roy (Aleph Book Company)
The academic and activist wife of a Bengali poet goes missing after she embarks on a mission to investigate an assault in Guwahati which is several hundred kilometres away from her home, Siliguri. It’s a novel that poses questions about the nature of activism, art, and family and what one sacrifices in unduly privileging one sphere over another.

When The Moon Shines By Day, Nayantara Sahgal (Speaking Tiger)
Sahgal’s novel is a portrait of India under a new Director of Cultural Transformation under whose rule Muslim workers must hide under Hindu names and politically dissident books vanish from bookstores. It’s less a vision of a dystopia and more an accurate representation of our times.

The One Who Wrote Destiny, Nikesh Shukla (Atlantic Books)
Set between the South Asian communities in Kenya and a British town called Keighley, The One Who Wrote Destiny is a novel about the lives of immigrants in the context of inheritable illness, death, and inter-generational distance.

Acid, Sangeetha Sreenivasan (Penguin India)
Kamala is abandoned by her husband and left to raise twin sons on her own till Shaly arrives in Bangalore. A close friendship develops between the two women, and Shaly moves in with Kamala and her sons, but the peace in that house is on the verge of turning into something else entirely.

The Demon Hunter Of Chottanikkara, SV Sujatha (Aleph Book Company)
The Demon Hunter invokes the tale of a small village in Kerala overrun by demons that thirst for humans and cattle. Devi is the village’s most capable hunter until a creature too horrific and too powerful for her comes along.

Latitudes Of Longing, Shubhangi Swarup (Harper Collins India)
A four-part novel that travels from the Andaman Islands to the Karakoram mountains, Latitudes sets out to understand the nature of love and of companionship through four very different pairings.

We That Are Young, Preti Taneja (Penguin India)
A modern retelling of the story of King Lear and his three daughters, We That Are Young borrows the familiar plot to narrate a disturbing and engrossing tale of a Delhi business family overrun by greed and corruption.

The Book Of Chocolate SaintsJeet Thayil (Aleph Book Company)
Starring an ageing painter and his companion returning to Bombay after 9/11, Chocolate Saints is an exercise in understanding and documenting a slice of Bombay’s cultural history from the 1970s to the present.


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