DC Edit | Wake-up call, in translation
Deccan Chronicle. | DC Correspondent
She deserves only as much respect as Sir Salman Rushdie, who became the first Indian to win the acclaimed Booker Prize in 1981
Geetanjali Shree's conquest of a new plane is bound to give Hindi, and all other Indian languages, a big dash of attention. DC Image
Like her globally-renowned but differently-spelt namesake, Gitanjali, a collection of poems whose English translation, Song Offerings, won Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913, Delhi-based Hindi novelist, Geetanjali Shree’s novel, Ret Samadhi, led to her becoming the first Indian to receive the International Booker Prize, with its translation, Tomb of Sand.
She deserves only as much respect as Sir Salman Rushdie, who became the first Indian to win the acclaimed Booker Prize in 1981 for his world-changing Midnight’s Children; her international recognition being on a par with the pioneering achievement of Rushdie. Her conquest of a new plane is bound to give Hindi, and all other Indian languages, a big dash of attention.
Translated by Daisy Rockwell, with whom Ms Shree will split the 50,000 pound ($63,000 approximate) prize money, the novel’s external and internal quest of its octogenarian protagonist, Ma, who must cross the border to Pakistan, has captivated readers, best expressed in the winning announcement of Frank Wynne, the jury chair of the prize, who applauded "…the power, the poignancy and the playfulness of the polyphonic novel of identity and belonging, in Daisy Rockwell’s exuberant, coruscating translation".
Sadly, not too many of us knew of the 64-year-old writer, whose oeuvre consists of three novels and several collections of short stories, before her win. Not even those who wished to impose Hindi on the entire country had an inkling of her "spellbinding brio and fierce compassion", whose literary weave has portrayed "…a family and a nation into a kaleidoscopic whole".
The best things closest to us must still be revealed to us in translation. And with her international recognition, Ms Shree has, perhaps, created a possibility of getting recognised at home, too.
For a nation that barely can distinguish between the annual Booker Prize given to an original English novel, and the International Booker Prize, earlier known as the Man Booker International Prize, given out once in two years for a body of work published in English or available in English translation, it will perhaps be a bit of a wake-up call.