Six women are among the 10 authors longlisted for the Rs 25 lakh JCB Prize for Literature 2020, Indias richest; with Mita Kapur, its Literary Director, saying “myth, dystopia, history, romance, technology, politics and family sagas — there’s something for every kind of reader”.
With four debut novels and two translations making it to the longlist, the socio political divide across history — present, and future — are prominent in all the novels.
“Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line” by Deepa Anappara (Penguin Random House India, 2020)
“In Search of Heer” by Manjul Bajaj (Westland, 2019)
“Undertow” by Jahnavi Barua (Penguin Random House India, 2020)
“Chosen Spirits” by Samit Basu (Simon Schuster India, 2020)
“These, Our Bodies, Possessed by Light” by Dharini Bhaskar (Hachette India, 2019)
“Moustache” by S. Hareesh, translated from Malayalam by Jayasree Kalathil (HarperCollins, 2020)
“A Burning” by Megha Majumdar (Penguin Random House India, 2020)
“A Ballad of Remittent Fever: A Novel” by Ashoke Mukhopadhyay, translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha (Aleph Book Company, 2020)
“The Machine is Learning” by Tanuj Solanki (Pan Macmillan, 2020)
“Prelude to A Riot: A Novel by Annie Zaidi” (Aleph Book Company, 2019)
The books by Deepa Anappara, Dharini Bhaskar, S. Hareesh and Megha Majumdar are all debut novels.
S. Hareesh’s novel, “Moustache”, is the first debut translation in the JCB Prize for Literature longlist since the prize’s inception.
A portion of Deepa Anappara’s novel, “Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line”, won the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, the Deborah Roger’s Foundation Writer’s Award and the Bridport/Peggy Chapman — Andrews Award for a first novel.
“As we read through the large number of entries for this year, we established a comparative framework for evaluation which included these criteria — the texture, the plot of the narrative, how compelling the book was, its readability, the point of view of the characters and if the language of the character matches that point of view,” the jury, chaired by author and professor Tejaswini Niranjana after danseuse Leela Samson stepped down due to personal reasons, said.
“The longlisted books this year do bring out the distinctive voice of each character and tell tales that are imaginative and powerful. The 2020 longlist provides us with fresh insights into the contemporary world we live in even if some of them are set in historical times.
“At the end the issue that remained with us during our final discussion was that of memorability. Whether it was the memorability of the plot itself, the memorability of the writing or that of the characters, which of these books do we remember,” the jury observed.
The other members of the jury were author Aruni Kashyap, playwright and director Ramu Ramanathan and Deepika Sorabjee, head of arts and culture portfolio, Tata Trusts.
The longlist was chosen from a vast range of submissions by writers from nine states writing in five languages (Assamese, Bengali, English, Malayalam, and Tamil) published between August 1, 2019 and July 31, 2020.
The shortlist of five titles will be announced on September 25 and the winner on November 7. If the winning work is a translation, the translator will receive an additional Rs 10 lakh. Each of the five shortlisted authors will receive Rs 1 lakh; if a shortlisted work is a translation, the translator will receive Rs 50,000.