Geetanjali Shree and translator Daisy Rockwell win $80,000 International Booker Prize for their novel Tomb of Sand

Indian writer Geetanjali Shree and American translator Daisy Rockwell have won the International Booker Prize for sand tomba vibrant novel with an 80-year-old heroine who crosses borders.

The novel was the first book translated from Hindi to make the long list. The novel follows an 80-year-old woman in northern India, struggling following the death of her husband. When she gets up, Ma decides to live a life without social conventions, surprising her modern bohemian daughter. Against her family’s wishes, Ma travels to Pakistan to finally come to terms with the trauma she’s been repressing since her teenage years during the partition.

The International Booker Prize, worth £50,000 (C$80,219.88), is awarded annually to a book translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. It is organized alongside the Booker Prize for fiction in English. Prize money will be split between New Delhi-based Shree and Rockwell, who lives in Vermont.

Shree is an accomplished short story writer and novelist and sand tomb is his first book to be published in the UK. Rockwell translates Hindi and Urdu literature.

There were no Canadians on the shortlist. The other finalists, selected from a long list of 13, included:

  • cursed rabbit by Bora Chung, translated from Korean by Anton Hur
  • A new name: Septology VI-VII by Jon Fosse, translated from Norwegian by Damion Searls
  • heaven by Mieko Kawakami, translated from Japanese by Sam Bett and David Boyd
  • Elena knows by Claudia Piñeiro, translated from Spanish by Frances Riddle
  • Jacob’s Books by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from Polish by Jennifer Croft

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The award-winning translator tells her own remarkable story in her memoir, Homesick – a poignant exploration of language, sisterhood and her struggle with depression.

Translator Frank Wynne, who chaired the jury, said the judges “overwhelmingly” chose sand tomb after “a very passionate debate”.

sand tomb is published in Great Britain by Tilted Axis Press. It was founded by translator Deborah Smith – who won the 2016 International Booker Prize for the translation of Han Kang The Vegetarian — publish books from Asia.

The novel has yet to be published in North America, but Wynne said he expects that to change with “a flurry of offers” after his Booker win.

“He manages to take issues of great gravity – grief, loss, death – and conjure up an extraordinary chorus, almost a cacophony, of voices,” he said.

“It’s extraordinarily fun and it’s extraordinarily funny.”

The award was created to raise the profile of fiction in other languages ​​– which accounts for only a small proportion of books published in Britain – and to salute the often unrecognized work of literary translators.

Wynne said the award was meant to show that “translated literature is not some form of cod liver oil that’s supposed to be good for you.”

The 2021 winner was David Diop’s novel At night all the blood is black, translated from French by Anna Moschovakis.

With files from CBC Books.