BANGALORE: The shortlist for the prestigious 2014 Shakti Bhatt First Book prize has just been announced. Supported by Priti Paul and the Apeejay Trust, the prize money for this award is a grand total of Rs 2,00,000. The award will be announced in November this year. The judges for this year’s award are eminent authors Aatish Taseer, Amit Chaudhuri and Mridula Koshy. We share a list of six books that have been shortlisted this year.
A Bad Character
by Deepti Kapoor
A Bad Character brings out the face of Delhi that is packed with violence, wrath and fraud. It is the story of a young woman called Idha, who finds amnesia of escape from the arranged marriage and the safety that her conventional world had to offer. She gets a chance to meet a young, charming but a dangerous man. She is exposed, even before she could realize, to the electrifying and frequently illicit pleasures that she could take and hold. As the affair continues, her double life becomes more differentiated and filled with new troubles. Her lover’s unsteady mannerisms keep increasing to the point of no return. Pain, addiction, love and violence, all end up forcing her to make his madness her own.
The Scatter Here Is Too Great
by Bilal Tanweer
Comrade Sukhansaz, an old communist poet, is harassed on a bus full of college students minutes before the blast. His son, a wealthy middle-aged businessman, yearns for his own estranged child. A young man, Sadeq, has a dead-end job snatching cars from people, while his girlfriend spins tales for her young brother to conceal her own heartbreak. In a style that is at once inventive and deeply moving, Tanweer elegantly weaves together a striking portrait of a city and its people, The Scatter Here Is Too Great is a love story written to Karachi—as vibrant and varied in its characters, passions, and idiosyncrasies as the city itself.
A Cool, Dark Place
by Supriya Dravid
Following her faux father’s suicide, Zephyr’s life unravels into a shapeless tapestry woven in the ethanol-hand of her grandfather, Don—an amoral, manipulative bastard who’s too clever for heaven and too deranged for hell. For whom it was always just about the libidinous moment; the super king of a vast empire of solitude, and permanent resident of his daughter’s wounded heart, Don’s actions shatter Zef’s past into fragments of warring memories. Armed with only her blade of tears, she carves her way through a quagmire of dark, atavistic forces. A Cool, Dark Place is all of these plus the unsettling realization that one’s life was ghost-written by two drunks.
The Competent Authority
by Shovon Chowdhury
A couple of decades from now, India is not shining—the Chinese have nuked large parts of the country. Bombay has been obliterated, Delhi is in the throes of rigorous reconstruction, Bengal has seceded and is now a protectorate of China, the Maoists have taken over much of what remains. The southern states are a distant and tranquil place that nobody has visited in years. The most powerful person in the country is a deranged bureaucrat called the Competent Authority, who has managed to subvert all forces of governmental authority. Cloaked in anonymity, the CA rules the remnants of India with an iron fist. The only person who can stop him is Pintoo, a mutant twelve-year-old and his three reluctant henchmen.
The Vanishing Act
by Prawin Adhikari
In the title story, a young, out-of-work Nepali man meets a circus clown and a giant in a park in Santa Rosa, California, and in their strange predicaments finds unexpected resonances of the lives of fellow Nepali immigrants. Fortune tells the story of an old man who watches his village transform into a teeming basti of migrants brought there to dam the Marshyangdi River, and finds himself thrown into a struggle against oblivion. Set in the obscure village of Khaireni in central Nepal, in Kathmandu, and in California, the stories in The Vanishing Act carry a compelling sense of place and are illuminated by flashes of astonishing insight. This collection marks one of the most assured literary debuts from Nepal in recent years.
The Smoke Is Rising
by Mahesh Rao
India has just sent its first spacecraft to the moon, and the placid city of Mysore is gearing up for its own global recognition with the construction of HeritageLand—Asia’s largest theme park. From behind the formidable gates of Mahalakshmi Gardens to the shanty houses on the edge of town, the people of Mysore are abuzz as they watch their city prepare for a complete transformation. As government officials make plans for the expected tourism extravaganza, Mysore’s residents find themselves swept up in the ferment. Savagely funny and deeply poignant, this is a riveting portrait of a city hurtling towards an epic clash of modernity and tradition.