Malayalam writer S Hareesh has won the JCB Prize for Literature 2020 for his maiden novel Meesha which had triggered a huge controversy in Kerala in 2018. The novel, a brilliant narrative woven around the lives of the oppressed people in the upper Kuttanad region of central Kerala, was translated from Malayalam by Jayasree Kalathil into "Moustache". The winner will receive a cash prize of Rs 25 lakh. An additional Rs 10 lakh will be given to the translator.
Hareesh had to withdraw the novel from a prominent weekly, which was serialising it, following threats from a section of people who found some of the content of the fictional work offensive to the Hindu religion.
"The fact that I have won the JCB Award for Meesha makes me happier. It's kind of a reply to some, you know what I mean," an elated Hareesh told Onmanorama on Saturday after the prize was announced.
He thanked Jayasree Kalathil for translating the work which he termed a tough task.
Hareesh has won several awards including the Kerala Sahitya Academy Award for best short story writer in 2018. 'Rasavidhyayude Charithram' and 'Aadam' are his short story collections. Hareesh hails from Neendoor in Kottayam. He has penned the screenplays of two critically acclaimed Malayalam films - Aedan and Jallikttu, both adaptations of his own short stories.
This year's JCB Awards shortlist, which was announced on 25 September, included Deepa Anappara’s "Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line", Samit Basu’s "Chosen Spirits", Annie Zaidi’s "Prelude to a Riot" and Dharini Bhaskar’s "These, Our Bodies Possessed by the Light".
Madhuri Vijay won the JCB Prize last year for The Far Field. The first edition of the prize was won by another Malayalam writer, Benyamin.
The JCB Prize for Literature is award presented each year to a distinguished work of fiction by an Indian author. The prize is funded by JCB, the global construction equipment manufacturer, and administered by the JCB Literature Foundation.