India: Perumal Murugan misses out on International Booker Prize shortlist

‘Pyre’ made history last month as the first-ever work in Tamil to make the longlist


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Published: Tue 18 Apr 2023, 9:01 PM

Perumal Murugan's Tamil novel Pyre, translated into English by Aniruddhan Vasudevan, missed out on the next stage of the International Booker Prize 2023 as the shortlist for the literary prize was unveiled at the London Book Fair on Tuesday.

The coveted literary prize, won last year by Geetanjali Shree and translator Daisy Rockwell for the first-ever Hindi novel Tomb of Sand, is awarded annually for a work of fiction written originally in any language, translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland.

The GBP 50,000 prize money is shared between the writer and translator of the winning work, to be known on May 23.

Murugan's Pyre, which tells the love story of an inter-caste couple, made history last month as the first-ever work in Tamil to make the longlist of the prize.

The 56-year-old Tamil Nadu born and based author, scholar and poet has written 10 novels, five collections of short stories and four anthologies of poetry and is working on his next novel.

Meanwhile, the six books to be shortlisted from the so-called “Booker dozen” of 13 longlisted novels include: Boulder in Catalan by Eva Baltasar, Whal’ in Korean by Cheon Myeong-kwan, The Gospel According to the New World in French by Maryse Condé, Standing Heavy in French by Gauz, Time Shelte’ in Bulgarian by Georgi Gospodinov, and Still Bor’ in Spanish by Guadalupe Nettel.

It marks the first nominations for books translated from Bulgarian and Catalan and wife-husband author-translator team of Maryse Condé and Richard Philcox for their French novel. Conde, 86, dictated The Gospel According to the New World to Philcox as she has a degenerative neurological disorder that makes it difficult to speak and see.

"I think I speak for the whole jury when I say that I am proud of this list. I think it's a very cool, very sexy list. We wanted each book to feel like an astonishment and to stand on its own,” said French-Moroccan novelist Leïla Slimani, International Booker Prize 2023 Chair of judges.

“These books are all bold, subversive, nicely perverse. There is something sneaky about a lot of them. I also feel that these are sensual books, where the question of the body is important. What is it like to have a body? How do you write about the experience of the body? These are not abstract or theoretical books, but on the contrary, very grounded books, about people, places, moments. All these authors also question the narrative and what it means to write a novel today,” she said.

For the six shortlisted books, GBP 5,000 for each will be divided equally between the writer and translator. The winner of the International Booker Prize 2023 will be announced at a ceremony at Sky Garden in London on May 23, with the winners’ prize of GBP 50,000 also divided equally between the author and translator.

“Just under half the translated fiction sold in Britain is bought by people under 35, according to new research conducted by Nielsen for the Booker Prize Foundation. This is an astonishing statistic, and is part of a far wider cultural trend in which more and more films, TV series and music originating in languages other than English have become part of the global mainstream,” said Fiammetta Rocco, Administrator of the International Booker Prize.

“Young people are curious, adventurous and engaged – and have a very porous sense of national borders. This presents an enormous opportunity that no publisher or bookseller of fiction in translation should ignore,” she said.

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