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It’s raining prizes for writers! With many literary awards on a roll, a reality check on how much purpose they serve

author, literature
The winner, to be introduced this Wednesday, will carry residence a prize cash of Rs 25 lakh—a further Rs 5 lakh will go to the translator in case a work of translation occurs to win.

Writer Rana Dasgupta has by no means been so busy. However it’s not writing or analysis that’s holding him occupied nowadays. What’s stored him on his toes for the previous 4 months is giving interviews, coordinating photograph shoots, working on promotion particulars, finalising advertising methods and operating social media campaigns. Dasgupta is the literary director of the JCB Prize for Literature, the most recent literary prize for Indian writers, which has unfolded with nice promise—the prize guarantees to be India’s reply to the Man Booker Prize. “Not immediately, though. But we aim to reach there in the next 15 years or so,” says Dasgupta.

Within the first week of October, JCB Prize got here out with its 5 shortlisted books—Anuradha Roy’s All of the Lives We By no means Lived, Amitabha Bagchi’s Half the Night time is Gone, Benyamin’s Jasmine Days (translated by Shahnaz Habib), Perumal Murugan’s Poonachi (translated by N Kalyan Raman) and Shubhangi Swarup’s Latitudes of Longing. “We are recommending these five books from a list of 60 read by us. These are the five books that will stand out in time and you would like to read them again after many years,” says novelist Vivek Shanbhag, one of many jury members for the 2018 JCB Prize.

The winner, to be introduced this Wednesday, will carry residence a prize cash of Rs 25 lakh—a further Rs 5 lakh will go to the translator in case a work of translation occurs to win. “It’s a wonderful validation for our editorial team, which works so hard and brilliantly to produce these books. It’s wonderful for authors to be recognised. Each longlist and shortlist feels especially exciting,” says Chiki Sarkar, founder and writer, Juggernaut Books, which has two titles (Half the Night time is Gone and Jasmine Days) within the JCB shortlist.

Billed because the nation’s richest literary prize, JCB—the multinational behind it—is trying to create a area for Indian writing with an award that’s as prestigious as its American or English counterparts within the eyes of the general public. In any case, the Man Booker Prize—which introduced its 2018 winner (northern Irish writer Anna Burns for Milkman) on Tuesday—is an award that’s keenly awaited not simply by literary fanatics, however widespread people as nicely. It’s this type of attraction that the Man Booker Prize’s counterparts within the subcontinent are aiming to realize within the coming years. “It’s time to move beyond being a mere spectator to the Booker Prize. We want to alter the publishing scenario in India and create more space for literary fiction and translations,” Dasgupta provides.
Season of awards

It’s an thrilling time for the Indian publishing business, which, as per commerce reviews, is pegged at `20,000 crore and is rising at 30% year-on-year. There are new publishers on the horizon, extra books are getting translated from Indian languages into English, new writers are discovering a voice and extra literary festivals are being organised than ever earlier than. Add these new awards, which promise to offer Indian writing extra outstanding shelf area within the international market, and the state of affairs appears fairly brilliant.

Author Anuradha Roy, who gained the 2016 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature for her e-book Sleeping on Jupiter, considers awards to be “a kind of validation” of a author’s work. “Among the judges for the DSC Prize were academics from Bangladesh, Britain and Sri Lanka, as well as a well-known US bookseller. It made me feel as if my book had crossed cultural and national boundaries and had made sense to well-informed, intelligent readers from completely different backgrounds,” she says. Roy, who was additionally on the 2015 Man Booker Prize longlist, has made it to the shortlist of just about all literary awards this yr together with her newest, All of the Lives We By no means Lived. “Most writers are plagued by self-doubt and I am no exception. So literary awards are very reassuring,” she provides.

In April, The New India Basis, a Bengaluru-based belief, introduced the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay New India Basis (NIF) Ebook Prize for non-fiction. The annual prize, named after the social reformer and freedom fighter, carries a money prize of Rs 15 lakh to be awarded to a non-fiction e-book about any facet of India since independence. “Awards are always welcome, as they restart conversations about books and are great for authors,” says Thomas Abraham, managing director, Hachette India. The profitable title to be introduced on the Bangalore Literature Pageant from October 27-28 will probably be picked by a jury comprising Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani, historian Ramachandra Guha, Teamlease Providers chairman and co-founder Manish Sabharwal, and historian and senior fellow at Centre for Coverage Analysis Srinath Raghavan.

As for the shortlisted books, whereas on one hand, there’s Sujatha Gidla’s Ants Amongst Elephants, which focuses on caste oppression in trendy India, on the opposite there’s partition literature within the type of Aanchal Malhotra’s Remnants of a Separation. The opposite books on the listing embrace Abhinav Chandrachud’s The Republic of Rhetoric, which is about free speech and the Structure, and bureaucrat Anirudh Krishna’s The Damaged Ladder, which explores the potential of individuals in India’s villages. Milan Vaishnav’s When Crime Pays (which seems at how criminals exploit the prevailing circumstances to entrench themselves in politics) and Francesca R Jensenius’ Social Justice By way of Inclusion (on how electoral illustration for Dalits by way of reservation has performed out since 1952) are additionally within the fray.

It’s an fascinating shortlist, contemplating that the prize focuses on the historical past of recent India. Guha, whereas saying the shortlist, had commented that the titles “reflect the Foundation’s ecumenical charter of recognising high-quality non-fiction regardless of genre and ideology.”

Apparently, all the brand new awards introduced this yr cater to totally different segments and have utterly stayed out of one another’s territories. Whereas JCB Prize is about fiction and translations by Indian writers, New India Basis focuses on non-fiction round trendy India.

One other prize introduced this yr in January is the ‘Prabha Khaitan Woman’s Voice Award’—by the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Pageant (AKLF)—for rising ladies writers in India. Carrying a money prize of `1 lakh, the award will recognise ladies writers in all Indian languages—this yr’s winner will probably be introduced on the subsequent AKLF in 2019.

“Isn’t it such a wonderful time to be publishing in India?” asks writer and translator Arshia Sattar, who is likely one of the jury members of the JCB Prize and co-curator of the Shakti Bhatt First Guide Prize 2018, which was arrange in 2008 to honour a debut author from south Asia. The winner of the Shakti Bhatt Prize, which is accompanied by a prize cash of `2 lakh, was awarded this yr to Sujatha Gidla for Ants Amongst Elephants.

Two extra awards debuted quietly this yr: the CK Prahalad Greatest Enterprise E-book Award and Neev Youngsters’s Literature Awards. Based within the reminiscence of administration guru, writer and entrepreneur CK Prahalad, the CK Prahalad Greatest Enterprise Ebook Award recognises the perfect enterprise guide of the yr. Introduced on the Bangalore Enterprise Litfest in September, the award, which carries a money prize of `1 lakh, went to Mindtree founder Subroto Bagchi for his ebook Promote: The Artwork, the Science, the Witchcraft.

And with Neev Youngsters’s Literature Awards, the youngsters’s class has lastly its personal award too. An initiative of the Neev Literature Pageant, the inaugural prizes have been awarded in September in three classes. One of the best image guide award went to I Will Save My Land, written by Rinchin with illustrations by Sagar Kolwankar, the Younger Readers Award went to Mitali Perkins for Tiger Boy and the perfect Younger Grownup Guide Award was gained by Queen of Ice by Devika Rangachari. The award and prize cash of `1 lakh every was an try and recognise and promote ‘high-quality’ writing in youngsters’s literature from throughout India.

In accordance with Surina Narula, founding father of the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, awards promote good writing. “The publishing industry is facing huge dilemmas because of the digital world taking over. So anything that promotes writing and literature in the published form is always going to be welcomed by publishers,” Narula says.

The DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, into its eighth yr now, comes with a money element of $25,000 (it was $50,000 till 2016). The award introduced its longlist earlier this month, which was introduced out by an eclectic jury comprising Rudrangshu Mukherjee, jury chair and chancellor of Ashoka College; Nandana Sen, author, actor and writer; Claire Armitstead, affiliate editor-culture, The Guardian; Tissa Jayatilaka, government director of United States-Sri Lanka Fulbright Fee; and Firdous Azim from BRAC College, Bangladesh.

Jury on name

With so many awards, it’s naturally a busy time for jury members. Studying every submission, discussions over Skype calls or messenger chats, arguments over what makes it to the ultimate listing, and so forth, maintain them absolutely occupied. Coming from numerous fields and residing in several geographical places, jury members have to make sure that they are on the identical web page when the ultimate record comes out. “It seems like I was doing nothing else but reading for the past four months. We have had long discussions for many days. Coming up with a shortlist is relatively easy, as by then, you know what is on most jury members’ minds,” says writer and translator Sattar. In addition to her and novelist Shanbhag, the jury for the JCB award for 2018 includes a numerous listing of personalities, together with filmmaker Deepa Mehta, entrepreneur and founding father of Murty Classical Library Rohan Murty, and Yale College astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan. The JCB prize will change its choice committee yearly and can be audited to make sure truthful analysis.

Whereas every jury member at each literary award brings a totally different perspective onboard, virtually all work on the core rules of ‘good writing’ and ‘enduring quality’ of a ebook. Shanbhag believes a literary prize is one thing akin to a e-book membership, the place a group of members learn a ebook for a bigger viewers after which advocate it. “A smaller version of a lit prize can be seen in a book club,” he says.
A literary award additionally displays one of the best in writing in that exact yr. And it opens the doorways for publishers to pay extra consideration to a style—like translations or literary fiction. Keki Daruwala, poet, brief story author and former jury member with the DSC, believes that awards deliver “optimism” into the publishing world. “Prizes are very necessary,” explains Daruwala, including, “It is the climate of optimism, which a prize builds that matters.” Hailing the literary prizes focusing on India, Daruwala, says, “Western standards of judging Indian writing, to put it mildly, are waspish.”

High quality print

When the Booker Prize broadcasts its shortlist, the gross sales of all of the books leap manifold. Even probably the most modest vendor on a Booker listing advantages massively from the Booker stamp. In accordance with knowledge launched by commerce physique Neilsen Bookscan a few years again (which scanned all of the Booker winners from 2001 to 2010), gross sales rose considerably for shortlisted titles. As an example, Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss, which gained in 2006, bought round 1,82,044 copies submit its Booker win, as towards 2,397 bought earlier than the announcement.

It’s well-documented that literary prizes improve the notice for nominated books amongst readers, in addition to the visibility of the guide. “The DSC Prize helps the author in getting known in the greater world, as the writing reaches a larger global audience. Most works have been published in other countries after they have been awarded the DSC Prize,” says Narula of the DSC Prize. The organisers even conduct guide excursions for the writer to advertise his/her novel, resulting in higher visibility, each in media and at bookstores.

However at a time when sale of literary fiction is overrun by mass market titles, will these prizes considerably drive gross sales? “Though the award gives a greater profile to both the writer and the publisher, unlike the West, we still have not seen a rise in book sales of a prize-winner,” factors out Sarkar of Juggernaut Books, including, “The Booker and, on occasion, the Pulitzer are the only prizes that have sales impact in India. So the sales for a Jhumpa Lahiri, Aravind Adiga, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Kiran Desai and Arundhati Roy (book) benefitted, but I can’t think of others.”

The reprints of a e-book are the most important indicator that gross sales are flourishing. “I have seen various book prizes over the past two decades across both Penguin and Hachette, and it’s sad, but only three prizes (and all of them international) have ever made a real difference to sales in India—Man Booker, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize. For all of these, we’ve had to reprint quite a bit—Washington Black by Esi Edugyan (which was on the Booker shortlist); Malala for the Nobel; Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch for the Pulitzer. And these are substantial reprints, ranging from 5,000 to 50,000 copies,” says Abraham of Hachette India.

JCB is, nevertheless, leaving no stone unturned to extend the gross sales of its shortlisted e-book. E-book extracts have been made into audio clips by the authors and uploaded on YouTube. Authors will even go to universities and literary festivals to advertise their books. Journal photo-ops are being organised and profiles being revealed. “We want our writers to be known outside the literary world. The objective is to increase sales tremendously in the next three-five years,” says literary director Dasgupta.

The actual problem, although, writers keep, is having an impression on readers. “Whether a book progresses to the shortlist or not, wins or not, a Booker nomination gives it a much wider readership; many people become aware of the book. Still, all prizes eventually fade from people’s memories and the book has to live on its own steam. How many people remember books that were on even last year’s Booker list?” asks author Roy.

She explains additional how well-publicised prizes do have a short-term influence on a author’s earnings and profession. “For a while, sales of the book increase and it has a ripple effect, making people aware of you and your other books. But plenty of books that never won a prize also have a significant and lasting impact,” she provides.

Perhaps you’re nearly as good as your final award. Or nearly as good as your final revealed guide. The jury is out on that.

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