The Paradise of Food wins JCB Prize for Literature

The book, written in Urdu, was among five books in the shortlist, which are all translations

Updated - November 19, 2022 08:29 pm IST

Published - November 19, 2022 08:28 pm IST - New Delhi

The Paradise of Food (Juggernaut) by Khalid Jawed, translated from the Urdu Nemat Khana, has won the ₹25 lakh prize 2022 JCB Prize for Literature. Jawed explores the travails of existence and squalor through the metaphor of food. Translated by Baran Farooqi, it tells the story of an orphaned boy, Zahiruddin Babar, who is brought up in a joint family, and looks at life from different angles. He is an outsider both at home and in the world.

“We look for happiness in every corner, and today I feel I have found happiness by winning this Prize,” he said, accepting it in New Delhi. “I didn’t expect this at all, I wrote this novel in Urdu in 2014,” he said, thanking his translator for transforming his novel into another language so beautifully. The JCB Prize jury, chaired by A.S. Panneerselvan, said it is a brutal and mesmerising account of the contemporary body, home and nation told through food and the kitchen. It also praised the translation which highlights the poetry and music of the original text.

Baran Farooqi thanked her father, the Urdu litterateur Shamshur Rahman Faruqi, who introduced her to Urdu, and had first brought Jawed’s writing to her notice. Pointing out that Urdu has become a little bit of a stranger in India today, she said it needed people to spread the word because this “stranger has many things to say.” In a review in The Hindu, Shafey Kidwai had written that the novel uses food as a central trope to blur the lines between reality, fantasy and memory.

In its fifth edition, the JCB Prize shortlist had five books, all translations. The other books in the shortlist were Manorajan Byapari’s Imaan (Eka), translated by Arunava Sinha from the Bengali Chhera Chhera Jeebon; Sheela Tomy’s Valli (Harper Perennial), translated by Jayasree Kalathil; Geetanjali Shree’s Tomb of Sand (Ret Samadhi), translated by Daisy Rockwell; and Song of the Soil(Rachna Books), by Chuden Kabimo, translated from the Nepali by Ajit Baral.

In an interview to JCB Prize, Jawed said that he was always interested to communicate and express himself, even as a child. He had always noticed that the instruments used in making food had an element of violence in them – the knife used to chop vegetables, the stone slab meant to grind spices, the hot griddle, tongs, pliers, all things can be used for violence – and it led me to thinking, “isn’t the world just like a kitchen,” and wove his story around it.

All the books “bring forth the many Indias across time and geography, [and is] representative of the spectrum of languages… that India has to offer,” said Mita Kapur, Literary Director, of the JCB Prize for Literature. Last year, M. Mukundan won the JCB Prize for his novel, Delhi: A Soliloquy, translated from the Malayalam by Fathima E.V.

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