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A good mix of established writers and debut novelists

Saket Suman |

The 50,000 dollar DSC Prize for South Asian Literature is one of the most prestigious international literary awards specifically focused on South Asian writing. The longlist for 2016 was recently announced at the Oxford Bookstore by Mark Tully, who is the chair of  the jury panel for the distinguished prize. The longlist, comprising 11 books, represents a mix of established writers and debut novelists from different backgrounds and geographies. It features authors based in South Asia as well as the authors, who explored South Asian life and culture from an outsider’s perspective. There were over 75 entries for the DSC Prize this year, from which the jury has compiled the longlist of 11 books that they feel represent the best works of fiction related to the South Asian region. 

Anuradha Roy’s Sleeping on Jupiter is perhaps the most promising and captivating entry in the longlist. The brilliant title, in which the narrator revisits her childhood experiences of violence and sexual abuse in Jarmuli, a temple town in India, and that attempts to expose several tracherous hypocrisies in our society, was also shortlisted for Man Booker Prize this year and appears to be the strongest contender for the coveted prize. 

Penguin India’s The Book of Gold Leaves by Mirza Waheed is another interesting entry that draws attention. Born and brought up in Kashmir, Waheed now lives in London and the tone is lyrical, to match the beauty of Kashmir, and yet it is tinged with melancholy and grief. Waheed’s prose burns with the fever of anger and despair; the scenes in the valley are exceptional, conveying a hallucinatory living nightmare that has become an everyday reality for Kashmiris’ Metro. 

Then there is She Will Build Him a City by Raj Kamal Jha and depicts a loss of control, meaning, humanity Rs the title is painted across with corrosive strokes of violence and with images that will haunt you long after the last page of the book has been turned. Aatish Taseer’s The Way Things Were explores the cultural schizophrenia of modern India and the difficulty of building honestly on the past through one man’s struggle with his inheritance. It is both an intimate portrait of a family and a panoramic vision of the last half century of life in Delhi, with Sanskrit woven in as central metaphor and chorus. 

Odysseus Abroad by Amit Chaudhuri, about a day in the life of two Indian men in London Rs a university student and his bachelor uncle Rs each coping in his own way with alienation, solitariness and the very art of living. The book has been critically acclaimed for its insight into the "mind and heart" of an Indian travelling abroad. 

Among other novels that made it to this year’s longlist are: Akhil Sharma’s Family Life, K R Meera’s Hang Woman (translated by J Devika; Penguin, India), A Little Dust on the Eyes by Minoli Salgado, Monica Byrne’s The Girl in the Road, The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee and Sandip Roy’s Don’t Let Him Know. "The novels vary widely in content and in style. They cover all the countries of South Asia. I am particularly happy that there are novels from the small states of North-East India Rs states which do not get adequate attention from the rest of the country. The DSC Prize includes translated novels written in South Asian languages. This is most important for the fulfilment of the prize’s ambition to show the best of South Asian writing to the world," said Mark Tully, jury panel for the distinguished prize. 

This year&’s international  jury panel includes Mark Tully, renowned journalist for over four decades, who has commented on a wide range of issues affecting the South Asian region and Chair of the jury panel; Dennis Walder, Emeritus Professor of Literature at the Open University, UK, who has authored several articles and books on 19th and 20th century literature; Karen Allman, highly respected book seller and literary coordinator based out of Seattle, the US; Neloufer de Mel, Senior Professor of English at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, who has written extensively on society, culture and feminism; and Syed Manzoorul Islam, celebrated Bangladeshi writer, translator, critic and academic. 

The jury will now deliberate on the longlist over the next month and the shortlist for the DSC Prize 2016 will be announced on 26 November at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in London and the winner will be announced at the Galle Literary Festival, Sri Lanka, on 16 January, 2016. The prize has previously been won by HM Naqvi for Home Boy, by Shehan Karunatilaka for Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew, by Jeet Thayil for Narcopolis, by Cyrus Mistry for Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer and by Jhumpa Lahiri for The Lowland.