Amitabha Bagchi’s novel Half The Night Is Gone has won the $25,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2019, topping a shortlist of six works of fiction. The winner was announced at the IME Nepal Literature Festival in Pokhara, Nepal, where Pradeep Gyawali, minister for foreign affairs of Nepal, presented the winner’s trophy to Bagchi.
A post-colonial saga that unfolds over three generations, Bagchi’s novel explores human relationships, and the intertwining of fates and cultures in a thoroughly Indian context, though close attention to detail and the inventive use of language. Many have referred to it as a Hindi novel written in English. Bagchi himself acknowledges his debt to more than one modern Hindi writer.
The jury’s citation for the work said:
“This novel, written in English, feels like a book written in an Indian language, and has the authenticity and the interiority of a work in translation without in fact being a translation. All sub-continental novelists in English since Raja Rao have striven ‘to express in a language that is not one’s own a sensibility that is one’s own’, and this novel evokes the sensibility of not one but three Indian languages: Hindi, Urdu and Sanskrit. It weaves together three parallel stories, interrogating the relationships between men and women, fathers and sons, masters and servants, and the nation and the individual. It is epic in scope, profound in its exploration of class and gender, and elegantly assured in the way it infuses English with Indian wit and wisdom to achieve an unprecedented commingling of different literatures and cultures.”
The other shortlisted books were:
- The Empty Room, Sadia Abbas, Zubaan
- There’s Gunpowder in the Air, Manoranjan Byapari, translated from the Bengali by Arunava Sinha, Eka
- The City and the Sea, Raj Kamal Jha, Penguin Books
- 99 Nights in Logar, Jamil Jan Kochai, Bloomsbury
- The Far Field, Madhuri Vijay, Harper Collins