Critically acclaimed author Geetanjali Shree‘s novel Tomb of Sand, translated from the Hindi by Daisy Rockwell, has been shortlisted for this year‘s International Booker Prize – the first time the translation of a Hindi language book has been so nominated.
Tomb of Sand was first published in Hindi as Ret Samadhi in 2018 and Penguin India released its English translation in March 2022. This book has also been the winner of the English Pen Award.
The International Booker Prize is one of the most prestigious awards in translated literature, giving both the author and translator a platform to showcase their exemplary work in translations.
One of the finest works by Geetanjali Shree, Tomb of Sand has received a lot of appreciation from readers, who have applauded it as engaging, funny and utterly original. Based on a tragic premise, the story however has a playful tone and exuberant wordplay. At the same time, it is an urgent and timely protest against the destructive impact on borders and boundaries, whether between religions, countries, or gender.
The central figure is a north Indian woman, 80 years old, who slips into depression after the death of her husband and then resurfaces to gain a new lease on life. Her determination to fly in the face of convention – including striking up a friendship with a transgender person – confuses her bohemian daughter, who is used to thinking of herself as the more ‘modern’ of the two.
To her family’s consternation, she insists on travelling to Pakistan, simultaneously confronting the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of partition, and re-evaluating what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a woman, and a feminist.
“The nomination is recognition of a very special kind,” Geetanjali Shree, 64, said.
“When a work appeals to unknown people sitting in faraway places, then it must have the ability to transcend its specific cultural context and touch the universal and the human. That is true ratification. The work must be good, the translation must be excellent! It is a great moment for Daisy and me. Shows how rich our dialogue has been. That is what translation is about,” she added.
Renowned translator Daisy Rockwell said, “I am honoured and overjoyed that the International Booker Committee has chosen to include Tomb of Sand for the shortlist. The longlisting had brought the book many new readers around the world, in English and in Hindi as well.”
“It has also created an awareness of Indian literature written in languages other than English, and I sincerely hope that awareness will grow into a desire for more. The Subcontinent has so many talented translators and amazing translated works to offer to readers of world literature. Here’s to many more International Booker nominations for South Asian literature,” she added.
Author of three novels and several story collections, Geetanjali Shree’s work has been translated into English, French, German, Serbian and Korean. She has received and has been shortlisted for a number of awards and fellowships, and lives in New Delhi.
Daisy Rockwell is an artist, writer and translator living in northern New England, USA. Apart from her essays on literature and art, she has written Upendranath Ashk: A Critical Biography, The Little Book of Terror and the novel Taste. Her highly acclaimed translations include, among others, Upendranath Ashk’s Falling Walls and Bhisham Sahni’s Tamas, published in Penguin Classics.
Geetanjali’s Tomb of Sand is up against Heaven by Mieko Kawakami, Elena Knows by Claudia Pineiro, A New Name: Septology VI-VII by Jon Fosse, The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk and Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung.
The winner of the International Booker Prize will be announced on May 26.
READ ALSO: Rani Laxmibai’s Aussie attorney