New Delhi: Books by Deepa Anappara, Samit Basu, Dharini Bhaskar, S. Hareesh and Annie Zaidi made it to the shortlist for the JCB Prize for Literature 2020.
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara (Penguin Random House India, 2020), Chosen Spirits by Samit Basu (Simon Schuster India, 2020), These, Our Bodies, Possessed by Light by Dharini Bhaskar (Hachette India, 2019), Moustache by S. Hareesh, translated from Malayalam by Jayasree Kalathil (HarperCollins, 2020) and Prelude to a Riot by Annie Zaidi (Aleph Book Company, 2019) will be in contention to receive the Rs 25 lakh prize, which will be announced on November 7.
Last year’s award was won by US based-Indian author Madhuri Vijay for her debut novel The Far Field.
The jury will be headed this year by Tejaswini Niranjana (head of the Department of Cultural Studies, Lingnan University, Hong Kong) and will also include writer and translator Aruni Kashyap, playwright Ramu Ramanathan and Tata Trusts’ Deepika Sorabjee.
“What the shortlisted books have in common is their ability to pull out tendencies from our contemporary socio-political world in India and represent them through intriguing characters, sparkling dialogue, and accomplished narration. Time past and time present are projected into possible futures as the writers weave their intricate plots. Whether it’s a farm or a basti, a hospital or a housing society, the locales teem with characters that demand our attention and arouse our curiosity. Here we have some of the best fiction published in this tumultuous year,” Niranjana said about the five books.
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara is a thriller set in the slums of an unknown Indian metropolitan. It follows the adventures of a group of slum kids out to solve the disappearance of their friend. It is Anappara’s debut novel and was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020.
Chosen Spirits by Samit Basu is a cautionary tale of a dystopian future and follows Joey, a ‘Reality Controller’ or image builder for the famous, who is faced by unnamed evils each day at work and personal fronts.
These, Our Bodies, Possessed by Light by Dharini Bhaskar tells the tale of Deeya, a middle child who struggles with the choice of a life she wants and a life she has led herself to live. A journey into a labyrinth of stories from her past and that of her mother, grandmother and sisters is what she thinks will help her with an answer.
Moustache by S. Hareesh, translated from Malayalam by Jayasree Kalathil, is as much about caste politics, oppression and gender parity as it is about the expansive landscape and changing ecology of Southwest Kerala. The main character, Vavachan, is a lower cast individual who grows a moustache that takes on a life of epic proportion.
Prelude to a Riot by Annie Zaidi is narrated in a series of soliloquies and captures the anxiety, fear, injustice, changing dynamics of India, and what it means to be ‘Indian’. Children, young adults, and the old lay bare their innermost thoughts as tensions simmer, fault lines crack, while the whole community tries holding on to superficial social etiquette.
Photo credit for author images (from L-R): Liz Seabrook, Twitter/@samitbasu, Twitter, Wikimedia Commons/Sreejithkoiloth CC BYSA 4.0, Twitter/@anniezaidi