Lit for Life

And the winner is Easterine Kire...

“Northeast writers have some amazing stories to tell that are worth hearing.” Alexander McCall Smith presents The Hindu Prize 2015 to Easterine Kire in Chennai. Photo: V. Ganesan  

The judges called Easterine Kire’s When the River Sleeps a “tender philosophical novel that speaks to the present moment in India”. In the running for the prize with five other exceptional books, Kire’s novel carries the spirit and voice of Nagaland, and the book’s victory, Kire hopes, will bring more recognition for Naga literature.



Swati Daftuar


How was it, winning the prize for this novel particularly? What does it tell you?

Winning the prize was really wonderful. When the River Sleeps is very different from my other books, although I have written a small volume of spirit encounters called Forest Song in 2010. I believed in the book from day one and went ahead with it. The prize affirms that when you trust in something with your whole heart, you are rarely wrong.

In a previous interview, you talked about the importance of sharing this spiritual, beautiful part of Nagaland with the world. Do you think that will help bring more such books to the shelf?

I certainly hope my book will do that. I have had interesting feedback from Western readers saying the book made them think about the equivalent of the river, the stone, and the journey in their own lives and made them interested in their own spirituality. That is part of my ambition for the book. I certainly hope it encourages more books from the Northeast which focus on the lives of the beautiful people who live there, and the wonderful stories of the land, and not the conflict accounts which create a stereotypical “Northeast is burning” image.

There is a definite need, wouldn’t you say, of more exposure for writers from the Northeast?

More exposure for writers from the Northeast — yes, indeed. Not because of any other reason but because the Northeast writers have some amazing stories to tell that are worth hearing. I hope that getting a prestigious prize like The Hindu Prize opens up avenues not only for my books, but for all the writers of the Northeast. I definitely think that it is high time universities in India include a compulsory course on Northeast literature. It would help readers understand the region better and be more accepting of people from the region.

Tell us more about working with your editor and publisher? Zubaan is an independent publishing house. How was the experience?

I had two editors for this book. Preeti Gill is my editor at Zubaan and we work very well together. American research scholar Michael Heneise, who is working on the ‘Angami Dreams,’ also helped me with the book by giving valuable feedback. Zubaan has published three of my books so far and we have enjoyed each experience greatly. The first, A Terrible Matriarchy, is now a textbook in Nagaland University. So that helps sales and also gets us many young readers with strong opinions about the characters! My second book, Bitter Wormwood, is likely to be made into a film. So my experience with Zubaan has been a blessed one.

And how was the experience at the festival?

The festival was wonderful. I met a reader who had made contact with me on Facebook. It’s always nice to meet new readers face to face. I was fortunate enough to have a chat with one of my favourite writers, Janice Pariat.

It’s always great to meet other writers whose names you only read in a newspaper. I met Annie Zaidi, who has written The Good Indian Girl, among others. And I also met Susie Tharu and the venerable Prof. K. Satchidanandan. Bit of a thrill to meet the writers of books one has read from university days.


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