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First novel translated from Hindi wins International Booker Prize | Books

First novel translated from Hindi wins International Booker Prize | Books

Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree “extremely exuberant and incredibly playful”, translated from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell, won the International Booker Prizethus becoming the first novel translated from Hindi to do so.

Shree and Rockwell winning the £50,000 prize – which is split equally between author and translator – not only marks the first Hindi winner of the prize, but also the first time a book has been originally written in an Indian language wins the prize.

Tomb of Sand tells the story of an 80-year-old woman, who sinks into a deep depression at the death of her husband, then resurfaces to find new life. The woman travels to Pakistan to confront the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of partition and reassess what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a woman and a feminist.

Frank Wynne, chairman of this year’s prize jury and the first translator to chair the jury, called the book “extraordinarily funny and amusing”.

He went on to describe it as, “Enormously engaging, charming, funny and light-hearted, despite the various subject matter it covers…a perfectly decent beach read for absolutely anyone.”

Wynne said the jury – made up of author and academic Merve Emre, writer and lawyer Petina Gappah, writer, comedian and TV, radio and podcast presenter Viv Groskop, and translator and author Jeremy Tiang – had a “heated debate”, but “when in the end, it was overwhelmingly the book chosen by the judges”.

Shree is the author of three novels and several collections of short stories, although Tomb of Sand is the first of his books to be published in the UK. Rockwell is a painter, writer and translator living in Vermont, USA who has translated a number of works from Hindi and Urdu literature.

Wynne said Rockwell’s translation was “astonishingly done, especially since so much of the original depends on Hindi wordplay, sounds and cadences”.

Tomb of Sand is published by a small independent publisher Tilted Axis Press; this year marks not only his first International Booker victory, but also his first long, shortlisted list.

Tilted Axis Press was created by Deborah Smith, who won the first edition of the revamped International Booker Prize, alongside Han Kang, for her translation of Kang’s The Vegetarian in 2016. She used her winnings from the prize to found the press .

Independent publishers Fitzcarraldo Editions, Charco Press and Honford Star also had books on this year’s shortlist.

Wynne said smaller independent publishers have done “a tremendous job of bringing translated work to people. There is still a lot to do. We always feel that publishing translations is difficult. It is no more difficult than any other book.

He said he hoped the victory of Tomb of Sands would encourage more translations of books into non-European languages.

“Despite the fact that Britain has a very long relationship with the Indian subcontinent, very few books are translated from Indian languages, Hindi, Urdu, Malayalam, Bengali,” said Wynn. “I think that’s a shame and I think that’s happening partly because a subsection of Indian writers write in English, and maybe we feel like we already have the Indian writers that we need, but unfortunately there are many, many Indian writers that we don’t know about simply because they haven’t been translated.

This year, the judges reviewed 135 books, with a record number of submissions received.

Other books on the shortlist included The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from Polish by Jennifer Croft; the pair have already won the award.

Bora Chung’s Cursed Bunny, translated by Anton Hur from Korean, was also shortlisted; A new name: Septology VI-VII by Jon Fosse, translated by Damion Searls from Norwegian; Heaven by Mieka Kawakami, translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd from Japanese; and Elena Knows by Claudia Pineiro, translated by Frances Riddle from Spanish.

The 2021 prize was won by At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop, translated by Anna Moschovakis. It was the first time that a French novelist had won this prize.

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