Amitabha Bagchi bags $25,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2019

Amitabha Bagchi bags $25,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2019
Amitabha Bagchi, winner of the DSC Prize 2019, receives the trophy from Nepal Foreign Affairs Minister Pradeep Gyawali. Photo: IANS

Pokhara: Amitabha Bagchi's brilliant novel "Half The Night Is Gone" was on Monday declared the winner of the $25,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2019 being cited for a novel in English that feels like a book written in an Indian Language which has lost nothing in the translation and beating off a stiff challenge from five other contenders in the shortlist.

He received the award from Nepalese Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali and DSC Prize co-founder Surina Narula after his name had been declared by jury chair Harish Trivedi on the concluding day of the IME Nepal Literature Festival.

Apart from Bagchi, whose novel has been published by (Juggernaut Books, India), the others in the shortlist were Jamil Jan Kocha for "99 Nights in Logar", Madhuri Vijay for "The Far Field", Manoranjan Byapari for "There's Gunpowder in the Air", Raj Kamal Jha for "The City and the Sea", and Sadia Abbas for "The Empty Room".

"This novel, written in English, feels like a book written in an Indian language, and has the authenticity and the interiority of a work in translation without in fact being a translation," the citation said.

All sub-continental novelists in English since Raja Rao have striven "to express in a language that is not one's own a sensibility that is one's own". This novel "evokes the sensibility of not one but three Indian languages: Hindi, Urdu and Sanskrit. It weaves together three parallel stories, interrogating the relationships between men and women, fathers and sons, masters and servants, and the nation and the individual. It is epic in scope, profound in its exploration of class and gender, and elegantly assured in the way it infuses English with Indian wit and wisdom to achieve an unprecedented commingling of different literatures and cultures," the citation added.

"In all humility, I am very happy to be in the company of such writers (on the shortlist)," Bagchi said in his acceptance speech adding: "I hope to represent all of them. I thank those (writers) who have come before us; who have contributed to our literature and poetry. In troubled times, poetry tends to get sucked out. Our attempt is to give this back to society."

Congratulating the winner, Surina Narula said: "My heartiest congratulations to Amitabha Bagchi for winning the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2019 for his brilliant novel 'Half The Night Is Gone'. All the shortlisted books this year deal with diverse and powerful themes and there were three debut novels and a book about Afghanistan. It is a tough decision as always for the jury to choose a winner from these exceptional entries. We are delighted to be invited to give the award this year in Nepal and I hope this encourages more publishers from Nepal to enter their books for the prize next year. The DSC Prize has now completed nine years and it is heartening to see the increased interest amongst readers across the world in South Asian life and culture through these books."

The announcement was well received by the audience present at Festival, where the best of Nepali and South Asian literature was on view. This is in line with the prize's vision to encourage literary talent in various South Asian countries which it has been doing by announcing the winner in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India and Nepal over the last four years.