Shree and Rockwell winning the GBP 50,000 prize – which is split between author and translator equally – not only marks the award’s first Hindi winner, but also the first time a book originally written in any Indian language has won.
The book narrates the story of an 80-year-old woman who struggles to cope with her husband’s death. After dealing with her depression, she goes on to visit Pakistan, to confront the past she left behind at the time of the Partition.
“I never dreamt of the Booker, I never thought I could. What a huge recognition. I’m amazed, delighted, honoured and humbled,” Shree said 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, a 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 further said.
Shree’s novel competed against five other shortlisted titles: 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 Mieko Kawakami, translated by Samuel Bett and David Boyd from Japanese; Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro, translated by Frances Riddle from Spanish; and The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft from Polish.
Born in Mainpuri, Uttar Pradesh in 1957, Shree currently lives in New Delhi. The author has received and been shortlisted for a number of awards and fellowships. Tomb of Sand is the first of her books to be published in the UK (by Tilted Axis).
The International Booker Prize was established in 2005 to honour an author and translator equally for a single work of fiction translated into English and published in the UK. It was previously known as the Man Booker Prize. Last year’s winner was At Night All Blood Is Black, written by French novelist David Diop and translated by Anna Moschovakis.