The Paradise of Food by Khalid Jawed wins the 2022 JCB Prize for Literature
New Delhi, November 20, 2022
"The Paradise of Food" by Urdu novelist Khalid Jawed was announced as the winner of the Rs 25-lakh JCB Prize for Literature 2022 here on Saturday.
The announcement was made by JCB Chairman Lord Bamford virtually during a hybrid event. The trophy was handed over to Jawed by Sunil Khurana, Chief Operating Officer, JCB India and A S Panneerselvan, Chair of Jury for 2022.
The prize-winning novel, in which food triggers memory and tragedy, tells the story of a middle-class Muslim joint family over a span of 50 years. The narrator, whose life one follows from boyhood to old age, struggles to find a place for himself, at odds in his home and in the world outside.
The Paradise of Food is the fourth translation to win the award and the first work in Urdu. It was translated into English by Baran Farooqi and published by Juggernaut.
Jawed also received the Prize trophy, a sculpture by Delhi artist duo Thukral and Tagra, entitled ‘Mirror Melting.’
The evening was brightened by an amalgamation of classical dance performances by Shriram Bhartiya Kala Kendra, leading up to the announcement.
The book was selected by a panel of five judges, out of the JCB Prize’s most diverse shortlist yet by AS Panneerselvan (Jury Chair), Amitabha Bagchi, Dr J Devika, Janice Pariat and Rakhee Balaram. Members of the jury were unanimous in their praise for the book.
“The Paradise of Food is a celebration of the human spirit, hope, loss, aspirations and anxiety. It is a fine artistic achievement where aesthetics negotiates a difficult political trajectory that is haunting our country. The carnivalesque element makes this a modern fable,” Panneerselvan said.
“This rare, beautiful book achieves, with exquisite, startling, singing prose, what few others have in recent and not-so-recent-years—a microscopic yet epic exploration of humanity in all its ugliness and beauty, its cruelty and kindnesses, its silliness and wisdom. I was left amazed, enthralled, thrilled,” Pariat said.
“This singular and moving book shines a scintillating light on the violence at the heart of human civilization. The language contains several beautiful and unusual formulations that are a literary achievement by both the author and the extremely skilled translator. A literary landmark in a less celebrated genre of Urdu’s grand literary tradition, this work deserves to be widely read in India and beyond,” Bagchi said.
“The Paradise of Food works like a powerful ice-pick in the winter of the civilizational crisis that has engulfed the countries of South Asia. And it does this by mobilising the poetic powers of Urdu, placing liberation above nation-building, which we think is the work of a novel. The translation is perfect and inspired,” Dr Devika said.
“A book of indescribable brilliance, The Paradise of Food blazes a trail and redefines the contemporary Indian novel. Beauty and horror, sacred and profane, the book attracts and repels us as we turn each page. Our understanding of the personal and political intersect through the food and kitchen in the most unforgettable ways,” Balaram said.
Khalid Jawed is among the leading contemporary Urdu novelists. He is the author of 15 works of fiction and non-fiction. He is a recipient of the Katha Award, the Upendranath Ashk Award and the UP Urdu Academy Award. He is a professor at Jamia Millia Islamia University.
The translator Baran Farooqi is a professor of English at Jamia Millia Islamia University. She received acclaim as the translator of "The Colours of My Heart", a selection of poems by Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
The JCB Prize for Literature was set up in 2018 to enhance the prestige of literary achievement in India and create greater visibility for contemporary Indian writing. The prize encourages translations and aims to introduce new audiences to Indian literature written in languages other than their own. It is funded by JCB India and administered by the JCB Literature Foundation.
The earlier winners of the prize include Malayalam author Benyamin for his Jasmine Days, translated by Shahnaz Habib in 2018, The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay in 2019, Moustache by S. Hareesh, translated from Malayalam by Jayasree Kalathil in 2020, Delhi: A Soliloquy by M Mukundan, translated from Malayalam by Fathima EV and Nandakumar K in 2021.