Established in 2017, the Romain Rolland Book Prize awards the finest translation of a French title into any Indian language, including English. The prize aims to promote Francophone literature among Indian readers.

This year’s winner is Pankaj Kumar Chatterjee for his translation of Jean-Daniel Baltassat’s Le Divan de Staline into the Bengali as Staliner Divan. It was published by New Bharat Sahitya Kutir, Kolkata. This is the second time that a Bengali title has received the award, the first one being the translation of Kamel Daoud’s Meursault, contre-enquête as Myorso Birudhyo Saksho by Trinanjan Chakraborty, published in 2022 by Patra Bharati.

Le Divan de Staline revolves around a singular episode in the life of Stalin. With three years left to live, Stalin comes to spend several days in his native Georgia, in a decadent palace in the middle of a forest. In the ducal study where he sleeps is a couch that resembles the one Freud has in London. At night, his long-time mistress, Vodieva, plays the role of a psychoanalyst. During the day a young painter, Danilov, a prodigy of social realism, waits to be received by Stalin to present to him the monument of eternity that he has designed to his glory. Insomnia, infinite questioning, infinite waiting. Stretched out on this couch, Stalin plays with the ghosts that haunt his dreams: his mother, his wife who committed suicide, his years in Siberia, and Lenin, the greatest of the lying fathers.

Jean-Daniel Baltassat imagines the intimate life of the Soviet ruler, and far from rehabilitating Stalin as being tender and affable, portrays him as a cruel and ruthless man who evokes terror and demands submission. He approaches Stalin as a writer with a remarkable evocative power, where imagination takes over from historical truth.

The winning publisher New Bharatiya Sahitya Kutir will be invited by the French Institute in India to the Paris Book Market in May 2024 and the winning translator Pankaj Kumar Chatterjee will be invited to the Paris Book Fair in April 2024.

‘Staliner Divan’ published by New Bharatiya Sahitya Kutir.