His novel Narcopolis is based on drug addiction destroying the world of the poor
Author Jeet Thayil has won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature-2013 for his debut novel Narcopolis based on the theme of drug addiction destroying the poor, deranged and marginalised people in Mumbai during 1970s and 80s. He was presented the coveted prize at a ceremony in the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival here on Friday.
The prize, carrying a cash award of $ 50,000, is given every year to an international author or shared with the translator for a work of fiction thematically linked to the South Asian region. Mr. Thayil is the first Indian to win the prize, running into its third year.
Narcopolis was also nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2012. Fifty-three-year-old Thayil, one of the six shortlisted authors for the DSC prize, was born in Kerala and is also known as a performance poet and musician. He earlier worked as a journalist in New York, Mumbai and Bangalore and his poetry collection, These errors are correct, was given the Sahitya Akademi award for English last year.
Celebrated film actress of yesteryear Sharmila Tagore, accompanied by Rajasthani village woman Bhanwari Devi, who has fought against patriarchal values, gave away the prize and a trophy to Mr. Thayil at a ceremony attended by eminent authors and literary figures on the Front Lawns of Diggi Palace on the lit fest’s second day.
After receiving the award, Mr. Thayil told The Hindu that he was delighted on being selected for the prize, but felt that it came “pretty late” in his literary career. “In a sense it is good. It won’t get over my head.”
Mr. Thayil, who is facing a case filed against him along with three other authors for reading out portions of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses during last year’s lit fest, said he was bothered about the legal proceedings. “Yet, this is a small price I have had to pay for seeking to uphold the freedom of speech and expression.”
The newly floated Azmat-e-Rasool Foundation regretted that a person facing charges of hurting the religious sentiments of Muslims had won the award. “We suspect that the organisers have selected him in view of the controversy surrounding him,” said Foundation spokesperson Mujahid Ali Naqvi.
The shortlisted works for this year’s DSC prize, drawn from more than 80 entries by authors and translators from around the world included Jamil Ahmad’s The Wandering Falcon, Tahmima Anam’s The Good Muslim, Amitav Ghosh’s River of Smoke, Mohammed Hanif’s Our Lady of Alice Bhatti and Uday Prakash’s The Walls of Delhi. Mr. Thayil dedicated his prize to Mr. Jamil Ahmad.
“Not an easy choice”
The five-member jury was headed by Nobel Prize-nominated writer-academician K. Satchidanandan. He said the shortlisted books from different countries represented the diversity of South Asian fiction in terms of theme as well as idiom. “Our choice was not easy and we had intense deliberations about themes, styles and genre of novels.”
The prize is sponsored by construction company DSC Limited, which is the principal sponsor of the lit fest. Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka had won the prize in 2012 and Karachi-based author H.M. Naqvi got it in 2011.