Four women writers and six men authors feature on the longlist of the JCB Prize for Literature 2019, the second edition of the richest award for Indian writing. The prize money is Rs 25 lakh for the winner, and, this year, an additional Rs 10 lakh for the translator in case the winning book is a translation.

Unlike the debut year, when there were at least five established writers on the list of 10, this year the longlist is dominated by debuts, with as many as four new writers – Roshan Ali​, ​Amrita Mahale​, ​Mukta Sathe,​ and ​Madhuri Vijay​. It also includes Paul Zacharia and Sharanya Manivannan for their first English novels (though not their first books), and Manoranjan Byapari, whose novel is his first work of fiction to be translated into English.

Returning to the list from 2018 is Perumal Murugan, with his twin novels – sequels to the feted One Part Woman – being treated for the purpose of the prize as a single work. Rounding off the longlist are Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar for his second novel, and Raj Kamal Jha for his fifth.

The jury comprises filmmaker and environmentalist ​Pradip Krishen​ (chair), author and critic Anjum Hasan​, author ​KR Meera​, author ​Parvati Sharma, and economist and former Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India ​Arvind Subramanian​.

The longlist was selected from submissions featuring works by writers in 14 states and writing in six languages (Bengali, English, Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, and Telugu). Said Krishen: “Indian fiction today is a richly bewildering category, and this longlist is correspondingly varied and complex. These are novels about working-class struggles and upper-class unease, historical evocations and contemporary conflicts, each written in an absolutely distinctive voice.”

The 2019 longlist:

  • Ib’s Endless Search for Satisfaction, Roshan Ali, Penguin Random House India.
  • There’s Gunpowder in the Air,​ Manoranjan Byapari, translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha, Westland Publications.
  • The City and the Sea​, Rajkamal Jha, Penguin Random House India.
  • Milk Teeth,​ Amrita Mahale, Westland Publications.
  • The Queen of Jasmine Country​, Sharanya Manivannan, HarperCollins India.
  • Trial by Silence​; ​​Lonely Harvest (treated as one novel), Perumal Murugan, translated from the Tamil by Aniruddhan Vasudevan, Penguin Random House India.
  • A Patchwork Family,​ Mukta Sathe, Speaking Tiger.
  • My Father’s Garden,​ Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, Speaking Tiger.
  • The Far Field, ​Madhuri Vijay, HarperCollins India.
  • A Secret History of Compassion, Paul Zacharia, Westland Publications.

The shortlist for the prize will be announced on October 4 in Delhi and the final winner will be revealed in an awards ceremony on November 2, also in Delhi. The prize is funded by the construction manufacturing group JCB, and administered by the JCB Literature Foundation. The 2018 winner was Jasmine Days​ by Benyamin, translated from the Malayalam by Shahnaz Habib.

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