Tomb of Sand, written by Geetanjali Shree and translated into English by Daisy Rockwell, became the first work of fiction in Hindi to be shortlisted for the International Booker Prize on Thursday.
Tomb of Sand is set in northern India, when the protagonist, an 80-year-old woman, slips into a deep depression after her husband’s demise. She then resurfaces to gain a new lease on life.
She travels to Pakistan, simultaneously confronting the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of Partition, and re-evaluating what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a woman, a feminist, according to PTI.
“The constantly shifting perspectives and timeframes of Geetanjali Shree’s inventive, energetic Tomb of Sand lead us into every cranny of an 80-year-old woman’s life and surprising past,” said the judges, according to PTI. “Daisy Rockwell’s spirited translation rises admirably to the complexity of the text, which is full of wordplay and verve.”
Geetanjali Shree is from Mainpuri, Uttar Pradesh, and is an author of three novels and several story collections. Her work has been translated into English, French, German, Serbian, and Korean.
The 64-year-old author now lives in New Delhi. She has received a number of awards and fellowships. Tomb of Sand is one of her first books to be published in the UK, reported PTI.
“It is recognition of a very special kind,” said Shree, according to PTI. “When a work appeals to unknown people sitting in faraway places, then it must have the ability to transcend its specific cultural context and touch the universal and the human.”
She added that it was true ratification, and is a great moment for her, and her translator, Daisy. “Shows how rich our dialogue has been,” Shree said. “That is what translation is about.”
This year, Irish translator and writer, Frank Wynne is chairing the judging panel. He is joined by 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.
The judges considered 135 books this year, before shortlisting the six.
The other five books that made it to the list are Cursed Bunny, written by Bora Chung and translated by Anton Hur from Korean, A New Name: Septology VI-VII, written by Jon Fosse and translated by Damion Searls from Norwegian; Heaven written by Mieko Kawakami and translated by Samuel Bett and David Boyd from Japanese, Elena Knows, written by Claudia Piñeiro and translated by Frances Riddle from Spanish, and The Books of Jacob, written by Olga Tokarczuk and translated by Jennifer Croft from Polish.
Frank Wynne noted that selecting from many extraordinary books has been difficult and heartbreaking. “These six titles from six languages explore the borders and boundaries of human experience, whether haunting and surreal, poignant and tender or exuberant and capricious,” he said, reported PTI.
“In their differences, they offer glimpses of literature from around the world, but they all share a fierce and breath-taking originality that is a testament to the endless inventiveness of fiction.”
The winner of the International Booker Prize 2022 will be announced at a ceremony in London, on May 26. The prize money of £50,000 is equally divided between the author and the translator.