Geetanjali Shree’s ‘Tomb Of Sand’ Wins International Booker Prize

By Anjan Roy

Speaking of coincidence, ‘Geetanjali’ got lucky for the second time in a hundred and ten years. First, Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry book Geetanjali won him a Nobel Prize for Literature. Now, a century and more later, another Geetanjali, the author of Hindi stories, is awarded the highly prestigious International Booker Prize for Literature.

Geetanjali Shree’s storybook Ret Samadhi, translated as “Tomb of Sand” by American translator Daisy Rockwell, has been described as a masterclass in exploring the nuances of life in a typical Indian family, relationships between people of different ages, young and old, between men and women, against the backdrop of a vast country going through heartbreaking political transformation.

Its story is woven around a typical reality of an elderly Indian lady from a large Indian family who suddenly gains the freedom of her life after the death of her husband. This reality is not unknown in an Indian family on the subcontinent. Geetanjali Shree, born in Uttar Pradesh in 1957, could not be insensitive to these twists and turns in family life.

Geetanjali’s original Hindi was translated into English by Rockwell, who will share the prize with the author. The total amount of the prize is fifty thousand pounds sterling. While talking about his translation, Rockwell admitted that it was a difficult task given the subtle ways in which Geetanali used the language to push his storytelling forward.

Derided and condemned as a bastion of the obscurantism of a traditionalist caste society, Geetanjali’s portrayal of a Uttar Pradesh household captures perhaps the quintessential elements of Indian reality. The ecstasies as well as the tragedies in this reality are what illuminates the entire narrative of this subcontinent.

The International Booker Prize is different from the Booker Prize. The first is a prize for books written in English and published in Great Britain. The first concerns books written in languages ​​other than English and translated into English and published in Great Britain.

This is the first time a sub-continental author has won the International Booker Prize unlike the Booker Prize in Literature which has been claimed by a number of Indian authors such as Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Kiran Desai, Arvind Adiga for their novels written in English.

Announcing the prize, International Booker Prize judging chair Frank Wynne said: “It’s a luminous novel about India and the score, but one whose haunting brilliance and fierce compassion weave together youth and age, man and woman, family and nation. into a kaleidoscopic whole”.

Apart from the fundamental human elements, the background is also essential for the transcendent appeal of Geetanjali’s novel. It is the partition of the country seventy-five years ago and the persistent social agonies of this cruel episode.

Simply put, even after a gap of so many years, we haven’t managed to forget about it and overcome it totally.

The score arrives like a psychosis in sensitive minds and insinuates itself into the dialogues. That it hits a raw core is why it comes into the conversation and why a novel by a modern woman would still resonate with those muted sounds of long ago.

Even in 1938, barely ten years before the country was carved up, serious efforts were being made to avert catastrophe. As Speaker of Congress, Subhas Chandra Bose had offered Muhammad Ali Jinnah the first post of undivided Prime Minister of India.

Shortly after, Subhas Bose was ousted from the Congress presidency by Gandhi and Zinnah refused to deal with that “cunning old fox”, i.e. Gandhi.

Like the inevitable destruction of the dramatis personnae of Greek tragedies, Ziinnah’s utter disillusionment was not long in coming. H had become uncomfortable with the idea of ​​Pakistan.

In his final days, Zinnah reportedly wrote a personal letter to the Prime Minister of India if he could be allowed to live in his beloved home in Bombay. His wish remained unfulfilled in his final days, which were not long in coming.

But consider it. How irresponsible, insensitive, selfish the actions of the politicians were. Millions died, were left homeless, generations were traumatized and disinherited for the whims of the handful of rulers.

Seventy-five years later, it now appears to have been a wasted effort, like Russia’s war in Ukraine today.

Is it the ultimate fatality of history that humanity continues to commit weaknesses from time to time.

The history of mankind is a grave of sand. (API Service)

Geetanjali Shree’s ‘Tomb Of Sand’ Wins International Booker Prize first appeared on IPA Newspack.

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