The Hindu Prize for Fiction and Non-fiction for 2019 have just been announced. Mirza Waheed for Tell Me Everything (Context) and Santanu Das for India, Empire, and First World War Culture: Writings, Images and Songs (Cambridge University Press) have been awarded the literary prize, in the fiction and non-fiction categories, respectively, by the jury.
The citation for Waheed’s award read: “An extraordinary work of fiction whose complexity, depth and narrative mastery would be hard to match in contemporary world literature.” According a report in The Hindu, the panel described the book as “a compelling novel, both a narrative tour de force and an exploration of a profound existential and moral conundrum.” The fiction jury panel had Navtej Sarna, Nilanjana Roy, Pradeep Sebastian, J Devika and Rajeswari Sunder Rajan.
The citation for Das’ award read “a sensitive exploration of the human dimensions of a major modern war that reshaped global politics and culture in fundamental ways,” and “helps to re-examine the scholarly and popular imaginations of the First World War which have tended to ignore the involvement of close to over a million Indians in it, and in particular, the tens of thousands among them who lost their lives.” The non-fiction jury panel included Kamini Mahadevan, Chandan Gowda, Harsh Sethi, Rustom Bharucha and Shiv Visvanathan.
The shortlist for the awards announced earlier included (apart from the winning books):
Fiction: The Assassination of Indira Gandhi by Upamanyu Chatterjee, The Queen of Jasmine Country by Sharanya Manivannan, Latitudes of Longing by Shubhangu Swarup and Heat by Poomani, tr. Kalyan Raman.
Non-fiction: Early Indians by Tony Joseph, Polio by Thomas Abraham, The Transformative Constitution by Gautam Bhatia and The Anatomy of Hate by Revati Laul.
The Hindu, in its report on the award, has also said that “The prize is usually awarded at a ceremony during The Hindu’s annual literature festival Lit For Life. However the 2020 edition had to be cancelled due to a challenging environment. An award ceremony to be held on March 28 was also cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hindu Lit For Life will be back in January 2021″.