Indian author Geetanjali Shree has become the first to win the prestigious International Booker Prize for her Hindi novel ‘Tomb of Sand’, a family saga set in northern India about an 80-year-old woman who travels to Pakistan to confront the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of Partition and re-evaluates what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a woman and a feminist.
The 64-year-old New-Delhi based writer said that she was completely overwhelmed with the bolt from the blue as she accepted her 50,000 pound prize, and shared it with the book’s English translator Daisy Rockwell. The prize is split between the author and the translator equally.
‘Tomb of Sand', originally ‘Ret Samadhi', is set in northern India and follows an 80-year-old woman in a tale the Booker judges dubbed a "joyous cacophony" and an "irresistible novel".
"I never dreamt of the Booker, I never thought I could. What a huge recognition, I'm amazed, delighted, honoured and humbled,” said Shree in her speech.
"There is a melancholy satisfaction in the award going to it. ‘Ret Samadhi/Tomb of Sand' is an elegy for the world we inhabit, a lasting energy that retains hope in the face of impending doom. The Booker will surely take it to many more people than it would have reached otherwise, that should do the book no harm,” she said.
Reflecting upon becoming the first work of fiction in Hindi to make the Booker cut, the author said it felt good to be the means of that happening.
"But behind me and this book lies a rich and flourishing literary tradition in Hindi, and in other South Asian languages. World literature will be richer for knowing some of the finest writers in these languages. The vocabulary of life will increase from such an interaction,” she said.
The other Indian writers to have won the Booker Prize are V S Naipaul for 'In a Free State' in 1971, Salman Rushdie for 'Midnight's Children' in 1981, Arundhati Roy for 'God of Small Things' in 1997, Kiran Desai for 'The Inheritance of Loss' in 2006 and Aravind Adiga for 'The White Tiger' in 2008.