Raghu Karnad Receives Prestigious Windham-Campbell Literary Prize

He received the award in the non-fiction category for his book 'Farthest Field: An Indian Story of the Second World War'.

New Delhi: Raghu Karnad, The Wire‘s consulting editor and former bureau chief, on Thursday received the Windham-Campbell prize at Yale University in the US for his book Farthest Field: An Indian Story of the Second World War.

Raghu Karnad with the Windham-Campbell prize. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan

On receiving the prize, Karnad said he wrote the book without any certainty that it would even find a publisher outside of India. “To have it recognized like this—and placed in the company of others that were my inspirations—feels less like an achievement than a fantastical dream,” he said. He received the non-fiction category prize for “combining forensic archival research with imaginative fire and unsettling national and colonial histories” in his book.

Raghu Karnad Farthest Field Harper Collins, 2015

Raghu Karnad
Farthest Field
Harper Collins, 2015

The book narrates a lost chapter in Indian history through the lives of five young people and was the end result of an essay written in 2012 on the living traces of the Second World War in India’s northeast.

He received also received the prize money of $165,000 at the official ceremony held at the Yale University Art Gallery from the university’s president Peter Salovey.

The other recipients for the 2019 Windham-Campbell Prizes were: Kwame Dawes (poet, Ghanaian), Ishion Hutchinson (poet, Jamaican), Patricia Cornelius (playwright, Australian), Young Jean Lee (playwright, Korean-American), Rebecca Solnit (author, American), David Chariandy (author, Canadian) and Danielle McLaughlin (author, Irish).

Established in 2013 with a significant gift from Donald Windham in memory of his partner of 40 years, Sandy Campbell, the Windham-Campbell Prizes are among the richest and most prestigious literary prizes. The community, camaraderie, diversity, and inclusive nature of the prizes honour the spirit of Windham and Campbell.

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Michael Kelleher, director of the prizes, said about the ceremony, “It’s thrilling to bring the writers together in person each autumn after announcing their prizes in the spring. Here, they receive their awards and also join a growing community of some of the world’s finest English language writers.”

Karnad previously won the 2016 Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar (English) for the same book.