Delhi-based novelist Geetanjali Shree has just made history with Ret Samadhi or Tomb of Sand. Translated from a Hindi 2018 edition to English by Daisy Rockwell, the work has just won the International Booker Prize for translated books published in the UK and Ireland. 

Tomb of Sand is the first-ever Hindi book to win this honour, as well as the first Indian and South Asian one too.

After six books—all penned in Korean, Norwegian, Japanese, Spanish, Hindi and Polish—were shortlisted earlier on, the book was declared winner at London on Thursday, with Shree and Rockwell sharing the £50,000 (Rs. 49 lakh) prize money, equally.

Here’s a quick preview of the book, according to the Booker Prize jury:

‘Set in northern India, the novel follows the adventures of an 80-year-old woman who unexpectedly gains a new, and highly unconventional, lease of life. 

The result is a book that is engaging, funny and utterly original, at the same time as being an urgent and timely protest against the destructive impact of borders and boundaries—whether between religions, countries or genders.’

“This is a luminous novel of India and partition, but one whose spellbinding brio and fierce compassion weaves youth and age, male and female, family and nation into a kaleidoscopic whole,” concluded judge chair Frank Wynne.

The novel explores several touching, even uplifting motifs from across the world of north India, and is a must-read tale of overcoming grief with joy, and exploring the world deeply regardless of your age or identity. 

It also marks a major victory for translated Indian-language works, which seem to be undergoing a radical mainstream metamorphosis across the last few years. Shree hails from Uttar Pradesh, and claims that along with a lack of English children’s books, this helped instill a lifelong connection with Hindi, which flows through her combined original and translated bibliography of 14 works.

Initially making an impression with 1987’s Bel Patra, Shree soon published Mai in the early ’90s, whose award-winning English translation by Nita Kumar turned her into a sensation. It was soon translated into several other languages, with people all over the world immersing themselves in her middle-class north Indian world, primarily explored through the lens of three generations of women.

Today, this wave of translated Indian works has reached something of a golden age, at least according to celebrated writer and columnist Madhavan Narayanan. Speaking to The Federal’s Kavitha Shanmugam, he said:

“Translated books are going through a golden age largely because there is a trend for cultural intersectionality worldwide. Also, today, there is a huge population in India that is young and literate. 

This generation is also not about low self-esteem, they are proud of their own culture and want to rediscover their culture. It is a journey of self discovery for Indo-Anglian kids—it also has to do with a resurgent India keen to tell the richness of Indian languages”

With plenty of underappreciated works written in India’s several languages, Shree’s win comes as a historical milestone for Indian authors, and hopefully inspires many more exciting works in the future.

(Featured Image Credits: The Booker Prizes)