Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer selected from among six shortlisted books
Mumbai-based author-journalist Cyrus Mistry won the prestigious DSC prize for South Asian literature for 2014 here on Saturday for his book Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer on the painful lives of members of the small Zoroastrian community of corpse carriers. The prize, comprising $50,000, , was announced at the Jaipur Literature Festival here.
Mr. Mistry is the second Indian to win the award, which is running into its fourth year. His book was selected from among the six books shortlisted for the coveted prize instituted in 2010 for the best work or translation of a work on the South Asian region.
The award was won last year by Jeet Thayil for his debut novel Narcopolis . For the 2014 prize, the shortlist was announced in November last year after the DSC Prize Secretariat received about 70 entries from South Asian countries as well as from the U.S., Britain, Canada and Australia.
American feminist-journalist Gloria Steinem presented the award to Mr. Mistry at a glittering ceremony at Diggi Palace in the presence of many eminent authors. Union Minister Shashi Tharoor was originally slated to be the chief guest at the prize ceremony.
Mr. Mistry told journalists after receiving the award that he was overwhelmed on his novel being selected.
“Yet I have tried to keep myself as detached as possible. I dedicate this award to my sister Firoza, who is struggling against an illness in the U.S.”
The DSC prize winner said his book was set at several simultaneous themes, covering the period of Quit India Movement in India and the rise of Hitler, and had dealt with the painful saga of love of a priest’s son with the daughter of an ageing corpse-bearer.
“Derived from a true story, it records the degradation experienced by those at the margins of history.”
While declaring Mr. Mistry the winner, jury chairperson Antara Dev Sen said the book was deeply moving and was exquisitely drawn on a small and “almost claustrophobic” canvas.
“It weaves a powerful story about a downtrodden caste within the Zoroastrian community we know so little about,” she said.
The jury comprised Arshia Sattar, Ameena Saiyid, Rosie Boycott and Paul Yamazaki.