Geetanjali Shree’s ‘Ret Samadhi’ becomes the 1st Indian Language Book to win the International Booker Prize
Indian author Geetanjali Shree won the prestigious International Booker Prize 2022 for her Hindi novel ‘Tomb of Sand’ making the nation proud. The book was translated in English by Daisy Rockwell from the original Hindi book titled “Ret Samadhi”. The book was dubbed by the Booker judges as a “joyous cacophony” and an “irresistible novel”.
‘Tomb of Sand,’ is a family saga set in northern India, which revolves around an 80-year-old widow, who suffers from depression after the death of her husband. She visits Pakistan to face the traumas she experienced during the partition.
The International Booker Prize is given annually to “a single book, translated into English and published in the United Kingdom or Ireland.” The award of GBP 50,000 was split equally between the author and the translator.
“I never dreamt of the Booker, I never thought I could. What a huge recognition, I’m amazed, delighted, honoured, and humbled,” said Geetanjali in her acceptance speech.
“There is a melancholy satisfaction in the award going to it. ‘Ret Samadhi/Tomb of Sand’ is an elegy for the world we inhabit, lasting energy that retains hope in the face of impending doom. The Booker will surely take it to many more people than it would have reached otherwise, that should do the book no harm,” she added.
“But behind me and this book lies a rich and flourishing literary tradition in Hindi, and in other South Asian languages. World literature will be richer for knowing some of the finest writers in these languages. The vocabulary of life will increase from such an interaction”, the author stated while reflecting upon her novel becoming the first work of fiction in Hindi to win the Booker Prize.
Daisy Rockwell, a Vermont-based painter, writer, and translator, joined her on stage to accept her award for translating the novel she described as a “love letter to the Hindi language.”
To her family’s chagrin, the book’s 80-year-old protagonist, Ma, insists on traveling to Pakistan, confronting the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of Partition and re-evaluating what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a woman, a feminist.
The Booker jury was impressed by Shree’s playful tone and exuberant wordplay, which resulted in a book that is “engaging, funny, and utterly original” while also being an urgent and timely protest against the destructive impact of borders and boundaries, whether between religions, countries, or genders. “This is a luminous novel of India and partition, but one whose spellbinding brio and fierce compassion weaves youth and age, male and female, family and nation into a kaleidoscopic whole,” said Frank Wynne, chair of the judging panel.
There were five other shortlisted titles for the Bookers prize. Totally, this year the Booker’s Prize received 135 entries. “The Books of Jacob” by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from Polish by Jennifer Croft, “Cursed Bunny” by Bora Chung, translated by Anton Hur from Korean,” A New Name: Septology VI-VII” by Jon Fosse, translated by Damion Searls from Norwegian,” Heaven” by Mieka Kawakami, translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd from Japanese, and “Elena Knows” by Claudia Pineiro, translated by Frances Riddle from Spanish were the other books shortlisted for the coveted prize.
Geetanjali Shree has three novels and several story collections to her credit. Her works have been translated into several languages, including English, French, German, Serbian, and Korean. Originally published in Hindi in 2018, ‘Tomb of Sand’ was published in the UK in English by Tilted Axis Press in August 2021.
In addition to the Booker Prize for Fiction, the international prize is awarded each year for a single book that has been translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland.