Amitabha Bagchi, a soft-spoken, pony-tailed Associate Professor of computer science at IIT, Delhi, has won the prestigious DSC prize for South Asian Literature for his evocative novel “Half The Night is Gone”, a story that explores different dimensions of religion, literature and Indian society in a way that few contemporary authors have done in recent times.
In a post-colonial saga that unfolds over three generations, Bagchi explores human relationships, the intertwining of fates and cultures, paying amazing attention to details. He poignantly captured the turmoil of our time and explored the country's diverse aspects from the viewpoint of his protagonist, Vishwanathan, who confronts the wreckage of his own life while seeking to make sense of the new India.
The winner of the DSC prize was announced at a special Award Ceremony at the IME Nepal Literature Festival in the picturesque city of Pokhara on December 16. Pradeep Gyawali, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, along with Surina Narula, co-founder of the DSC Prize, presented the winner's trophy to Amitabha Bagchi.
The six shortlisted authors and novels in contention for the DSC Prize this year were: Amitabha Bagchi: Half the Night is Gone (Juggernaut Books, India); Jamil Jan Kochai: 99 Nights in Logar (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury, India & UK, and Viking, Penguin Random House, USA)l Madhuri Vijay: The Far Field (Grove Press, Grove Atlantic, USA); Manoranjan Byapari:
There's Gunpowder in the Air (Translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha, Eka, Amazon Westland, India); Raj Kamal Jha: The City and the Sea (Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Random House, India); and Sadia Abbas: The Empty Room (Zubaan Publishers, India)
The five-member international jury panel for the DSC Prize 2019 and the shortlisted authors did a brief reading from their shortlisted novels.
Bagchi didn't mince words in commenting on the current spate of protests in India on Citizenship act and their handling by the Government. “ A writer's cannot remain immune to what's happening around him — and what's taking place in India is unfortunate. Our democratic values are being challenged each and every day,” he told The Pioneer.
Speaking on behalf of the jury, Jury Chair Harish Trivedi, said, “For the five jury members located in five different countries, reading 90 novels in 90 days was a transformative experience.
Over the months, we arrived at a diverse and inclusive longlist of 15 and a shortlist of 6 novels, representing the polyphonic richness of the region. It is out of this collective literary churning that there has emerged a winner whose work subsumes many languages and sensibilities.”
Ajit Baral, Director of the IME Nepal Literature Festival, made the opening address and welcomed the DSC Prize to Nepal and the city of Pokhara.
Congratulating the winner, Surina Narula, co-founder of the DSC Prize said, “My heartiest congratulations to Amitabha Bagchi. .
All the shortlisted books this year deal with diverse and powerful themes and there were three debut novels and a book about Afghanistan. It is a tough decision as always for the jury to choose a winner from these exceptional entries. We are delighted to be invited to give the award this year in Nepal and I hope this encourages more publishers from Nepal to enter their books for the prize next year.
The DSC Prize has now completed nine years and it is heartening to see the increased interest amongst readers across the world in South Asian life and culture through these books.”
This year's international jury panel included Harish Trivedi, (Jury Chair) former Professor of English at the University of Delhi who has written extensively on colonial and post colonial literature, Jeremy Tambling, former Professor of Literature at the University of Manchester with an interest in present and past literatures, in critical theory, and in film, Kunda Dixit, Editor of the Nepali Times newspaper in Kathmandu, and author of several books on the South Asian region, climate change and technology, Carmen Wickramagamage, Professor of English at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, whose work has focused on feminism, postcolonial theory, and 'Third World' women writers, and Rifat Munim, a bilingual writer, essayist, and translator, and the literary editor of Dhaka Tribune in Bangladesh, with special interest in South Asian English writing.
While no author from Nepal submitted his books to the jury panel, but the way people thronged the venue of the Nepal Literature Festival has made the organizers hopeful that soon their authors would be competing with the best in south East Asia.
“ We have some fine talents, but they have not received proper attention because their works have not been translated didn't English,” said
Started in 2011, the Nepal Literary Festival Festival aspires to be a neutral platform where writers, artists, filmmakers, singers, and intellectuals from South Asia come together to discuss varied issues pertinent to the times.
The annual festival is organized by the Bookworm Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the world of words, consisting of publishers, journalists and writers who are passionate about expanding the public sphere and creating democratic spaces in Nepal and beyond.