27 August, 2016

2016 Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize: short list

This year’s shortlist for the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize reminds us that the diaspora is writing hard and writing well. Four of our selected writers live and work outside the sub-continent. But their exceptional work is counter-balanced by equally noteworthy books written within India. All the books this year should make us reconsider what we think we know but have either forgotten or not acknowledged: the long (and often sinister) shadows of particular events and people, the individual lives nestled inside large histories, lives that shimmer on the margins of our vision and as always, the darkness hidden inside families.

Manu S Pillai’s The Ivory Throne literally mines the treasure troves of history. He finds the lonely women behind the dazzling jewels that stud the persons and temples of the erstwhile rulers of Travancore and reminds us that what we call history is the lived life of another, separated from us in time but not in temperament.

Madhu Gurung’s The Keeper of Memories stays true to its evocative title and through remembered lives, legends, rites and rituals, infuses the historical migration of the Gorkhas into north-eastern India with a keen though entirely unsentimental family intimacy.

Sophia Khan’s Yasmeen also searches the darker corners of loneliness within a family. Cradled in the routine of the quotidian, there are so many words unsaid, so many smiles that never reach the eyes, so many tears that splash into cups of coffee that seeking answers in the past does not always provide comfort.

Nisid Hajari’s Midnight’s Furies reveals the underbelly of India’s cataclysmic Partition through private letters, official communiques, personal relationships and bureaucratic inertia. Hajari shows that our understanding of the past must be periodically refreshed if we are to carry its lessons meaningfully into the present.

Akshay Mukul’s Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India masterfully details how a small regional press and a determined individual ideologue can influence the mind-set of a nation, reconstruct a religion and seed the politics of separatism that flowers nearly a century later.

The short stories in Kanishk Tharoor’s Swimmer Among the Stars are testament to the fact that for a new generation of internationalised writers, the world truly is their oyster. Story traditions, languages, histories and memories from every corner of the globe are the nacre that cover the grains of sand and smooth them into pearls.

All our books this year are pearls in that most marvelous of all oceans, the ocean of story.

Arshia Sattar

The short list

Manu S Pillai for The Ivory Throne

Madhu Gurung for The Keeper of Memories

Sophia Khan for Yasmeen

Nisid Hajari for Midnight’s Furies

Akshay Mukul for Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India

Kanishk Tharoor for Swimmer Among the Stars

The winner will be announced in November.

23 July, 2016

Announcing the judges for the 2016 Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize 2016

Now in its ninth year, the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize is set to release its 2016 shortlist. The Shakti Bhatt Foundation has announced the three judges who will select the winner in November; authors Samanth Subramanian, Mahesh Rao and Janice Pariat.

Samanth Subramanian is a New Delhi-based writer and journalist. He has written, among other publications, for the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Guardian, Granta, Intelligent Life and Caravan. His first book, Following Fish: Travels Around the Indian Coast, won the 2010 Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize and was shortlisted for the Andre Simon Award. His second book, This Divided Island: Stories from the Sri Lankan War, won the 2015 Crossword Non Fiction Prize and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Award and the Ondaatje Prize the same year.

Mahesh Rao is a novelist and short story writer. His fiction has been shortlisted for various awards, including the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. His work has appeared in publications like the New York Times, The Baffler, Caravan and Elle. His debut novel, The Smoke Is Rising, won the Tata First Book Award for fiction, and was shortlisted for the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize and the Crossword Prize. One Point Two Billion, his collection of short stories, was published in October 2015.

Janice Pariat is the author of Boats on Land: A Collection of Short Stories and Seahorse: A Novel. She was awarded the Young Writer Award from the Sahitya Akademi (Indian National Academy of Letters) and the Crossword Book Award for Fiction in 2013 for Boats on Land. She studied English Literature at St Stephen’s College, Delhi, and History of Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Her work—including art reviews, cultural features, book reviews, fiction and poetry—has featured in a wide selection of national magazines and newspapers. Currently, she lives in New Delhi, India.

This year’s shortlist will be decided by poet and author Jeet Thayil, and author Arshia Sattar, who runs the Sangam House international writers' residency programme.

The Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize is a cash award of 2 lakh rupees, and a trophy. It is funded by the Shakti Bhatt Foundation, and Priti Paul through the Apeejay Trust.

06 June, 2016

Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize 2016: call for entries

The Shakti Bhatt Foundation is inviting entries for the 2016 Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize. In its ninth year, the prize is a cash award of 2 lakh rupees, and a trophy. Submissions in the following genres are invited: poetry, fiction, graphic novels, creative non-fiction (travel writing, autobiography, biography and narrative journalism), and drama.

The deadline for publishers and individuals to send in first books is July 15, 2016. Books published between June 2015 and June 2016 are eligible. The winner will be announced in November and the prize presentation will take place in Delhi, December 2016.

Authors from the subcontinent are eligible but books must be published in India. (The cheque to a winning author outside India and elsewhere in the subcontinent will be given to his/her Indian publishers, or the author’s nominees in India.) Publications must be in English or translated into English from an Indian language. Vanity press publications are ineligible.

This year’s shortlist will be put together by poet and author Jeet Thayil, and author Arshia Sattar, who runs the Sangam House international writers' residency program. Three judges (to be announced) will pick the winning entry.

Books should be sent to the following addresses:
One copy to
The Shakti Bhatt Foundation,
C-6/36, First Floor, SDA,
New Delhi 110016

Two copies to:
The Shakti Bhatt Foundation,
011, Maangalya Residences,
6/1, Benson Cross Road,
Bangalore 560046

For further information, mail shaktibhattprize at gmail dot com.