Delhi, the perennial muse

Two of the shortlisted books for DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2019 have Delhi as the main plot. The authors tell us more.

Published: 10th December 2019 09:40 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th December 2019 09:40 AM   |  A+A-

''The City and The Sea is not a novel about that rape. It is about trying to find the grey when everything is being painted in black and white.''

''The City and The Sea is not a novel about that rape. It is about trying to find the grey when everything is being painted in black and white.''

Express News Service

One Delhi story is that this is a city where everybody comes with a story of hope. Young migrants come in search of a better life.

But what happens to those who do not get the opportunities their ambitions need?” says Raj Kamal Jha, whose book titled The City and The Sea, has been shortlisted for DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2019.

 The starting point of his novel is the Nirbhaya case (December 16, 2012). “But The City and The Sea is not a novel about that rape. It is about trying to find the grey when everything is being painted in black and white,” he says, adding, “There is a sea in the city, where people go when they are lost and broken, where the dead and the missing wash up. The Select City Walk mall and the bus ride were, in a way, two parallel universes in the city itself. How do you navigate between these and keep your humanity intact is the challenge we face in a deeply divided city.”

Incidentally, the DSC prize will be announced on December 16 this year at IME Nepal Literature Festival in Pokhra in Nepal. The shortlist was announced at London School of Economics & Political Science in November. It includes four authors of Indian origin and one author each of Pakistani and Afghan origin. Along with aforementioned book, the shortlist features Jamil Jan Kochai’s 99 Nights in Logar, Madhuri Vijay’s The Far Field, The Empty Room by Sadia Abbas, There’s Gunpowder in the Air by Manoranjan Byapari translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha and Amitabha Bagchi’s Half of the Night is Gone. 

Completely set in Delhi, Bagchi’s book takes us to the city in 1920s and moves forward to later decades with an engaging narrative. It brings religion, literature and society to the forefront. “All fiction has to be rooted in some kind of experience,” Bagchi told The Morning Standard. “I live in Delhi and there is a lifetime of experience with me with respect to this place which I can translate into fiction.”

Harish Trivedi, Chair of the jury, explains the elephantine task the jury had in shortlisting from 90 novels. “When drawing up a longlist of 15 novels, each one of us five jurors (located in five different countries) could simply name our own individual favourites. And we still had room left to include some more books for the sake of diversity, on the basis of which countries their authors came from, which locales they chose for their novels, the kinds of narrative strategies they adopted, whether they were women or otherwise under-privileged, were debut novelists, and whether they wrote in a language other than English,” he adds, “I would say much the same factors prevailed, except a lot more intensely, when we got down to selecting just six novels out of those 15 for our shortlist. And I cannot even begin to guess what collective reasoning, impulse or profound subconscious whim may prevail when we assemble to choose the one winner.”

DSC Prize was founded by Surina Narula and Manhad Narula in 2010 and it focuses on the best of South Asian fiction writing. According to Surina gauged the importance of such a prize while being the main sponsors for the Jaipur Literature festival. “We felt that the work we were doing towards promoting literature wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t encourage more writers to come forward. We were living in two countries, the UK and India, and we could see how the English speaking world had no idea about our heritage and history or much information about the contemporary Indian. Therefore we felt the need for a prize for South Asian writing and translated South Asian literature.”

DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2019 will be announced on December 16 at IME Nepal Literature Festival in Pokhra, Nepal


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