Geetanjali Shree and Daisy Rockwell
Geetanjali Shree and Daisy Rockwell

Geetanjali Shree's 'Tomb of Sand' wins International Booker Prize

New Delhi, May 27, 2022

Tomb of Sand, written by Geetanjali Shree and translated from Hindi into English by Daisy Rockwell, was on Thursday announced as the winner of the prestigious 2022 International Booker Prize.

The £50,000 prize will be split between Geetanjali Shree, a Delhi-based Hindi novelist and short-story writer, and Daisy Rockwell, giving the author and translator equal recognition.

The winner was announced by chair of the judges, Frank Wynne, on Thursday evening, at a ceremony at One Marylebone in London.

Originally published in Hindi in 2018, Tomb of Sand was awarded one of English PEN’s coveted translation awards, which encourages UK publishers to acquire more books from other languages by helping them to meet the costs of translating new works into English.

It was published in English by Tilted Axis Press in August 2021.

Tomb of Sand is the first book in any Indian language to win The International Booker Prize, and the first novel translated from Hindi to be recognised by the award.

The book was first published in Hindi as 'Ret Samadhi' (Rajkamal Prakashan).

"This is a bolt from the blue, but what a nice one. I never dreamt of the Booker, I never thought I could. What a huge recognition, I'm amazed, delighted, honoured and humbled," says the author, who was in disbelief during her acceptance speech,

"There is a melancholy satisfaction in the award going to it. 'Ret Samadhi/Tomb of Sand' is an elegy for the world we inhabit, a laughing elegy that retains hope in the face of impending doom. The Booker will surely take it to many more people than it would have reached otherwise, that should do the book no harm."

The book revolves around the story of an 80-year-old north Indian woman who goes into a depression after her husband dies, but eventually recovers from her depression and insists on travelling to Pakistan to confront the unresolved trauma during the partition.

The author of three novels and several story collections, Geetanjali has been translated into English, French, German, Serbian, and Korean.

She was born in Mainpuri, India, in 1957. This is the first of her books to be published in the UK. She has received and been shortlisted for a number of awards and fellowships.

Rockwell is a painter, writer and translator living in Vermont, US. She was born in 1969 in Massachusetts.

She has translated a number of classic works of Hindi and Urdu literature, including Upendranath Ashk’s Falling Walls, Bhisham Sahni’s Tamas, and Khadija Mastur’s The Women’s Courtyard.

Her 2019 translation of Krishna Sobti’s A Gujarat Here, a Gujarat There was awarded the Modern Language Association’s Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Translation Prize.

"This has been an exceptionally strong shortlist, and it was gradually, regretfully, that we winnowed these six down to one after a long and impassioned debate. Ultimately, we were captivated by the power, the poignancy and the playfulness of Tomb of Sand, Geetanjali Shree’s polyphonic novel of identity and belonging, in Daisy Rockwell’s exuberant, coruscating translation. This is a luminous novel of India and partition, but one whose spellbinding brio and fierce compassion weaves youth and age, male and female, family and nation into a kaleidoscopic whole," Frank Wynne, chair of judges for the prize, said.

The International Booker Prize is awarded annually for the finest single work of fiction from around the world which has been translated into English and published in the UK and Ireland.

The prize is different from the Booker Prize, which is awarded to what is, in the opnion of the judges, the best novel of the year written in English and published in the UK and Ireland.

Both prizes are given by the Booker Prize Foundation, a registered charity, established in 2002, whose purpose is to promote the art and value of literature for the public benefit. Among the ways in which it fulfils this mission is the awarding of the Booker Prize and the International Booker Prize.


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