Malayalam author wins Rs 25 lakh JCB Prize for Literature

New Delhi, Nov 7 : “Moustache” by S. Hareesh, translated from the Malayalam by Jayasree Kalathil, was on Saturday named the winner of the Rs 25-lakh JCB Prize for Literature, India’s richest literary award, for the “agile and deeply insightful way” it deals with the caste and gender equations in the state’s Kuttanad region.

The winner was announced by JCB Chairman Lord Bamford in a first-of-its-kind virtual awards ceremony.

The book was chosen from among a shortlist of five which included “Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line” by Deepa Anappara, “Chosen Spirits” by Samit Basu, “Prelude to a Riot” by Annie Zaidi and “These, Our Bodies, Possessed by Light” by Dharini Bhaskar.

Hareesh’s debut novel, which is a contemporary classic mixing magic, myth and metaphor into a tale of far-reaching resonance, was the unanimous choice of the jury. It is the second debut novel as well as the second Malayalam translation to win the award.

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Hareesh will also receive a trophy sculpted by Delhi artist duo Thukral and Tagra titled “Mirror Melting.” The translator will receive Rs 10 lakh.

The winner was selected by a panel of four judges comprising professor, cultural theorist and author Tejaswini Niranjana (chair); writer and translator Aruni Kashyap; playwright and director Ramu Ramanathan; and Head of the Arts and Culture portfolio at Tata Trusts Deepika Sorabjee.

“Moustache is a fine work of Indian fiction by a highly regarded Malayalam author whose work is now coming into English translation. Hareesh engages in an agile and deeply insightful way with the caste and gender equations of the Kuttanad region in this intricate and highly readable story. Jayasree Kalathil’s translation of the novel is fluent and energetic. She conveys the specificity of the context without missing the wood for the trees,” Niranjana said.

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Hareesh is the author of three short-story collections: “Adam”, which received the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award; “Rasavidyayude Charithram”; and “Appan”. He is also the recipient of the Geetha Hiranyan Endowment, the Thomas Mundassery Prize, and the V.P. Sivakumar Memorial Prize.

Jayasree Kalathil’s translation of N. Prabhakaran’s novella “Diary of a Malayali Madman” won the Crossword Books Jury Award for Indian Language Translation in 2019. Her translation of “Moustache” was published by HarperCollins India in 2020.

Jayasree is also the author of “The Sackclothman”, a children’s book that has been translated into Malayalam, Telugu and Hindi. Originally from Kottakkal, Kerala, Jayasree currently lives in London with her husband, Adley Siddiqi. “Moustache” is her second translation.

–IANS
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