Dhaka, Nov 18 : Sri Lankan author Anuk Arudpragasams “The Story of a Brief Marriage” — a touching tale of a young man trapped on the frontlines between the Sri Lankan army and the Tamil Tigers — has bagged the $25,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2017. The announcement was made at the magnificent Bangla Academy here during the closing ceremony of the three-day-long Dhaka Literature Festival on Saturday.
“Writers are not race car drivers. We are not in some kind of a race. We are all working in silence, we write because we believe there are things that cannot be communicated in speech. It feels a little insincere to celebrate this award because my novel is about something so tragic,” said dArudpragasam after receiving the award. He announced he would donate one-third of the prize money to the organisations that work in Northern Sri Lanka, to Rohingya Muslims and to Kashmiri organisations providing succour in the troubled state.
Apart from “The Story of a Brief Marriage,” the other four novels in the shortlist were Aravind Adiga’s “Selection Day”; Anjali Joseph’s “The Living”; Karan Mahajan’s “The Association of Small Bombs”; and “In the Jungles of the Night” by Stephen Alter.
Jury chair Ritu Menon described Arudpragasam’s work as a “remarkable novel”, saying it had “several exceptional qualities”.
“Writers don’t respect national or territorial borders. Judging the DSC Prize submissions for 2017 was both challenging as well as one of immense pleasure. It was a process marked with remarkable consensus. All 13 novels in our longlist and shortlist have most extraordinary storytelling. Each of their voices is distinctly South Asian,” Menon said.
The DSC prize was founded in 2010 and over the past seven years has emerged as a major literary award. Apart from Menon, an eminent feminist writer; Valentine Cunningham, Professor Emeritus of English Language and Literature at Oxford University; Steven Bernstein; celebrated screenwriter, director, author, cinematographer and lecturer based out of Los Angeles; Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, revered radio and television broadcaster from London; and Senath Walter Perera, Senior Professor in English, University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka.
Past winners of the DSC Prize include H.M. Naqvi of Pakistan, Shehan Karunatilaka of Sri Lanka, Jeet Thayil and Cyrus Mistry from India. Jhumpa Lahiri won it in 2015 for “The Lowland”. The winner last year was Anuradha Roy for “Sleeping on Jupiter”.
(Saket Suman is in Dhaka at the invitation of the promoters of the DSC Prize. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)