JCB Prize for Literature - A Window Into the World - Seeker's Thoughts

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Seeker's Thoughts

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JCB Prize for Literature - A Window Into the World

The JCB Prize for Literature, India's richest literary prize, honors both writers and readers. Launched this year under novelist Rana Dasgupta's leadership to celebrate Indian literature both written in English as well as its many Indian languages, this new literary award recognizes writers and readers.

Khalid Jawed's The Paradise of Food translated by Baran Farooqi into Urdu was 2020's winner, and we spoke with its jury regarding their deliberations process.

The Longlist

The JCB Prize seeks to honor India's writing, helping readers explore its full variety and depth. Furthermore, significant awards are also made available to translators who allow writers to reach an international readership through translation services.

2023's Longlist for the JCB Prize includes three debut novels written in English, two translations (from Hindi into Tamil and Bengali) and an anthology from 2023 (in this sixth year of existence of this prize), judged by journalist/editor AS Panneerselvan, Amitabha Bagchi (author and academic), Rakhee Balaram (author-academician), writer Janice Pariat and translator/historian J Devika.

Khalid Jawed's novel 'The Paradise of Food' by author Khalid Jawed was chosen as this year's winner, initially published under its original name Ne'mat Khana in 2014. This tale follows an middle class joint Muslim family over 50 years as one member struggles to find his place within both home and society at large. This marks only the fifth JCB Prize awarded and its first winner published in Urdu language.

The Shortlist

JCB India created the JCB Prize for Literature, launched in 2018, to recognize and celebrate India's diverse literature by honoring both original English-language novels and their translations into English. Furthermore, it encourages writers to push creative and linguistic boundaries while helping readers discover a broad array of contemporary Indian writing.

On September 2, the 2023 JCB Prize longlist was unveiled, featuring both debut authors such as Manoranjan Byapari and Perumal Murugan - former International Booker-longlisted authors; his most recent novel Fire Bird (Penguin), translated by Janani Kannan - as well as veteran authors like Manoranjan Byapari.

For the first time ever, this year JCB included books published in Hindi and Nepali in its shortlist - such as Song of the Soil by Chuden Kabimo and Valli by Sheela Tomy which have both been translated from Nepali into English for publication, along with novelist Vikram Seth's The Golden Calf which also makes an appearance.

The Finalists

In October, the jury will release a shortlist of five (subject to change) titles (subject to change) before selecting their winner - taking home Rs 25 lakh as well as extra compensation if their book happens to be translated; any translator who wins would get Rs 10 lakh extra!

Finalists this year include stories about an agrarian family forced to migrate, an eight-year-old girl's experience after losing her father in a flood, and one about an upper middle-class joint Muslim family over fifty years. Furthermore, this prize aims to break down language barriers by encouraging translations and thus opening Indian literature up to readers worldwide.

Construction equipment manufacturer JCB India Ltd created the JCB Prize in 2018 as a national literary award with entry quotas set aside for English writing as well as translations into English.

The Winner

Khalid Jawed won the 2022 JCB Prize for Literature with his novel, The Paradise of Food. First published as Ne'mat Khana in Urdu, The Paradise of Food follows a middle-class joint Muslim family over 50 years and their struggle to find themselves both inside and outside their family home. Narrator struggles both internally as well as externally to find his place.

The jury for this competition was chaired by journalist and editor AS Panneerselvan and comprised authors Amitabha Bagchi and Rakhee Balaram; translator-historian J Devika; as well as Janice Pariat - they all joined AS Panneerselvan to offer congratulations to shortlisted authors and their translators.

"The JCB Prize for Literature recognizes Indian writing while honoring translators - without whom, we could never appreciate its depth," they stated. This year, in partnership with Access For All, selected works were also made digitally accessible for visually impaired readers - an innovative move designed to widen accessibility for Indian literary fiction readers and help break linguistic ghettos among them.

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