Novel set in Kashmir shortlisted for DSC Prize

The announcement of the shortlist was made at a function held in London School of Economics and Political Science on Wednesday night.

Novels of four Indians, including one by Bengaluru-born Madhuri Vijay's 'The Far Field' set in the troubled Jammu and Kashmir, and those of two Pakistan and Afghanistan origin writers were short-listed for USD 25,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.

The six were chosen from a long-list of 15 novels by a jury headed by former Delhi University English professor with University of Manchester former professor Jeremy Tambling, Nepali Times Editor Kunda Dixit, University of Perandeniya Professor Carmen Wickramagamage, and Dhaka Tribune Editor Rifat Munim.

The announcement of the shortlist was made at a function held in the London School of Economics and Political Science on Wednesday night. The final winner would be announced at the IME Nepal Literature Festival in Pokhara in Nepal on December 16.

The chosen six are Amitabha Bagchi's Half the Night is Gone, Jamil Jan Kochai's 99 Nights in Logar, Manoranjan Byapari's There's Gunpowder in the Air (translated from Bengali), Raj Kamal Jha's The City and the Sea and Sadia Abbas' The Empty Room besides Madhuri's debut novel The Far Field.

The DSC Prize is administered by the South Asian Literature Prize and Events Trust. The long list was chosen from 90 entries from 42 publishers and 55 imprints across the globe.

Madhuri, who is born and raised in Bangalore, is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize. "With rare acumen and evocative prose, in The Far Field, Madhuri Vijay masterfully examines Indian politics, class prejudice, and sexuality through the lens of an outsider, offering a profound meditation on grief, guilt, and the limits of compassion," the jury said.

Her novel deals with the life of Shalini, a privileged and restless young woman from Bangalore, who sets out for a remote Himalayan village in the troubled northern region of Kashmir after her mother's death. Shalini believes her mother's death is somehow connected to the decade-old disappearance of Bashir Ahmed, a Kashmiri salesman who frequented her childhood home. The protagonist is brought face to face with Kashmir’s politics, as well as the tangled history of the local family that takes her in.

Bagchi's novel 'Half the Night Is Gone' raises "questions of religion, literature and society that speak to our fractured times" through the story of a celebrated Hindi novelist Vishwanath, who is heartbroken by the recent loss of his son in an accident.

Kochai's 99 Nights in Logar is described as a "stunning coming-of-age novel and a portrait of contemporary Afghanistan like no other, blending grit and immediacy with lyrical mythmaking" while Byapari's There's Gunpowder in the Air is a "searing investigation into what deprivation and isolation can do to human idealism".

The novel of Jha, the Chief Editor of Indian Express, "a cleaves open India's tragedy of violence against women with a powerful story about our complicity in the culture that supports it". Abbas' Empty Room is a "moving portrait of life in Karachi at a pivotal moment in the nation’s history, and a powerful meditation on art and the dilemmas faced by women who must find their own creative path in hostile conditions".

The novels in the Long List had included T D Ramakrishnan's Sugandhi alias Andal Devanayaki (translation), Aki Kumaraswamy's Half Gods, Mira Waheed's Tell Her Everything, Devi S Laskar's The Atlas of Red and Blues and Shubhangi Swarup's Latitudes of Longing, Tova Reich's Mother India.

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