'Tomb of Sand' by Geetanjali Shree wins 2022 International Booker Prize

Translated from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell, it is the first book originally written in any Indian language to bag the award.

Geetanjali (right) with Rockwell (Photo: David Parry/PA for The Booker Prizes)

Tomb of Sand, written by Geetanjali Shree and translated from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell, the 2022 International Booker Prize winner, is the first book originally written in any Indian language to bag the prize.

Rockwell’s English translation clinched one of English PEN’s flagship translation awards in 2019. Tomb of Sand is released under Tilted Axis Press, whose founder, Deborah Smith, won the 2016 Man International Prize for her translation of Korean writer Han Kang’s The Vegetarian.

Set in northern India, Geetanjali’s work — described as “a polyphonic novel of identity and belonging” — follows an 80-year-old woman who slips into a deep depression after her husband dies, but resurfaces to gain a new lease of life.


Shortlisted authors Bora Chung, Mieko Kawakami, Jon Fosse, Geetanjali Shree and Claudia Piñeiro at the 2022 International Booker Prize Ceremony (Photo: David Parry/PA for The Booker Prizes)

The judging panel hails it as “a luminous novel of India and partition, but one whose spellbinding brio and fierce compassion weaves youth and age, male and female, family and nation into a kaleidoscopic whole”. The author says, “This is not just about me, the individual. I represent a language and culture and this recognition brings into larger purview the entire world of Hindi literature in particular and Indian literature as a whole.”

Her novel beat five other contenders to the prize: Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung (translated from Korean by Anton Hur); A New Name: Septology VI-VII by Jon Fosse (translated from Norwegian by Damion Searls); Heaven by Mieko Kawakami (translated from Japanese by Sam Bett and David Boyd); Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro (translated from Spanish by Frances Riddle); and The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk (translated from Polish by Jennifer Croft).

Over in Scotland, home to literary giants such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, J M Barrie, Robert Burns and Walter Scott, they start them young. Six years ago, to celebrate the most popular teen books by authors and publishers in the country, Scottish Book Trust set up the Scottish Teenage Book Prize.


Harry Cook wins Scottish Teenage Book Prize with 'Fin & Rye & Fireflies' (Photo: Scottish Book Trust)

Harry Cook’s Fin & Rye & Fireflies wins this year with The Infinite by Patience Agbabi and The Infinity Files by S M Wilson as close contenders. Every year, three shortlisted titles are selected and teenagers across the country vote for their favourite. Shortlisted authors receive £500 (about RM2,600) and the winner gets £2,000.

UK-born Cook is an Australian actor and international LGBTQI+ activist. He was the lead opposite Geena Davis in Accidents Happen. His winning book is about a 16-year-old who moves to a new town and falls in love, but struggles with his family’s attempts at conversion therapy.

The Scottish Book Trust believes a love of reading and writing “inspires creativity, improves employability among young people, supports better mental health and well-being, and is one of the most effective ways to help children escape the poverty cycle”.

As part of its vision of giving everyone from any background the opportunity to thrive in their life and work, it encourages people to share their love for books with the next generation by leaving a gift in their will, “so someone will fall in love with reading”.


This article first appeared on July 11, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.


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