Racing to Jaipur: the final lap

Updated: Nov 25 2012, 07:22am hrs
At a gathering of leading publishers, writers and cultural leaders at Londons May Fair Hotel on the evening of Tuesday November 20, the shortlist for the third DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2013 was announced. The prize carries an award of R2,800,000/ 32,000/ $50,000 given to one international author (or shared with their translator) who has written the best novel thematically linked to the South Asian region. The final prize will be announced during the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival in India in January 2013, and has grown to be a fixture in the international publishing calendar, due to the significance of South Asias rapidly expanding book market.

The jury, chaired by Nobel Prize-nominated writer and academic K Satchidanandan (former Chief-Executive of Indias National Academy of Letters), undertook intense deliberation of a longlist consisting of 16 books. The jury featured a number of leading literary figures: writer and critic, Muneeza Shamsie (Managing Editor of The Oxford Companion to the Literatures of Pakistan), Rick Simonson (Senior Buyer, Founder, and Co-Director of Elliott Bays internationally-renowned author reading programme), Suvani Singh (Festival Director of Kathmandu Literary Jatra), and arts entrepreneur, Eleanor OKeeffe (former Director of the Jaipur Literary Festival; Co-Founder of the Palestinian Festival of Literature, and cultural organisation, 5x15).

Satchidanandan commented that, The six shortlisted books from different countries represent the diversity of South Asian fiction in terms of theme as well as idiom. We were looking for works which are thematically fresh, stylistically innovative and are a definitive contribution to novel as a genre. The choice was not easy as we had 16 outstanding works to choose from but we were unanimous in our final choice.

Long-listed authors, publishers (including Hamish Hamilton, Harvill Secker, Penguin, Picador, Headline Review, HarperCollins, Random House, Hachette, Faber and Faber and Zubaan), Londons literati, and ambassadors from the South Asian region gathered together for the gala eventat the May Fair Hotel.

The Wandering Falcon

Jamil Ahmad

Hamish Hamilton/

Penguin India

This bookbegins with a young couple, refugees from their tribe, who have traveled to the middle of nowhere to escape the cruel punishments meted upon those who transgress the boundaries of marriage and family. Their son, Tor Baz, descended from both chiefs and outlaws, becomes The Wandering Falcon, who travels throughout the tribes, over the mountains and the plains, in the towns and tents that comprise the homes of the tribal people.

Jamil Ahmad has been a member of Pakistans Civil Service. This is his first novel.

The Good Muslim

Tahmima Anam

Penguin Books

A remarkable novel about one family who, having fought in Bangladesh's brutal war of independence, must now face the challenges of peace. In the dying days of a brutal civil war, Sohail Haque stumbles upon an abandoned building. Inside, he finds a young woman whose story will haunt him for a lifetime to come. The Good Muslim is an epic story about faith, family and the long shadow of war.

Tahmima Anam was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 1975 and currently lives in London.

River of Smoke

Amitav Ghosh

Hamish Hamilton/

Penguin India

In September 1838 a storm blows up on the Indian Ocean and theIbis, a ship carrying a consignment of convicts and indentured labourers from Calcutta to Mauritius, is caught up in the whirlwind. When the seas settle, five men have disappearedtwo lascars, two convicts and one of the passengers. On the grand scale of an historical epic, River of Smoke follows its storm-tossed characters to the crowded harbors of China.

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta and grew up in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India.

Our Lady of Alice Bhatti

Mohammed Hanif

Random House India

The patients of the Sacred Heart Hospital for All Ailments are looking for a miracle, and Alice Bhatti is looking for a job. With guidance from the working nurses manual, and some tricks she picked up in prison, she brings succour to the thousands of patients littering the hospitals corridors and concrete courtyard. In the process she attracts the attention of a lovesick patient, Teddy Bunt, apprentice to the nefarious Gentleman Squad of the Karachi police. Their love is unexpected, but the consequences are not.

Mohammed Hanif is a Pakistani journalist.

The Walls of Delhi

Uday Prakash

Translated by Jason Grunebaum

UWA Publishing, W Australia

A sweeper discovers a cache of black money and escapes to see the Taj Mahal with his underage mistress; a dalit races to reclaim his life stolen by an upper-caste identity thief; and finally, a slum babys head gets bigger and bigger as he gets smarter and smarter, while his family tries to find a cure.

Uday Prakash is one of contemporary Hindis most important voices. Jason Grunebaum has worked as an interpreter and delegate for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kashmir, Kosovo, and East Timor.

Narcopolis

Jeet Thayil

Faber and Faber, London

Shuklaji Street, in Old Bombay. In Rashid's opium room the air is thick and potent. Here, people say that you introduce only your worst enemy to opium. Narcopolisis a rich, chaotic, hallucinatory dream of a novel that captures the Bombay of the 1970s in all its compelling squalor. With a cast of pimps, pushers, poets, gangsters and eunuchs, it is a journey into a sprawling underworld written in electric and utterly original prose.

Jeet Thayil was born in Kerala, India in 1959 and educated in Hong Kong, New York and Bombay.