New Delhi: Indian author Geetanjali Shree has won the International Booker Prize 2022 for ‘Tomb of Sand’, along with Daisy Rockwell who translated the book into English. Shree’s novel ‘Ret Samadhi’ (original title) became the first-ever Hindi novel to not only win but even get nominated for the International Booker Prize.
The story of an 80-year-old woman who travelled to Pakistan to make peace with her trauma of Partition won the jury for this year’s prize. Frank Wynne, the chair of the judges, said, “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.”
On winning the award, Geetanjali Shree said: “This is not just about me, the individual. I represent a language and culture and this recognition brings into larger purview the entire world of Hindi literature in particular and Indian literature as a whole.”
Who Is Geetanjali Shree?
A New Delhi-based Hindi author, born in Uttar Pradesh’s Mainpuri in 1957, Shree wrote Ret Samadhi in 2018. She was born Geetanjali Pandey but took her mother’s first name Shree as her last name, she told Outlook in an interview earlier this year.
Shree spent her childhood in many towns of UP where her father was posted as a civil servant. She moved to Delhi for higher education where she went on to study History at Delhi University’s Lady Shree Ram College, and do a Master’s from Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Shree, however, left history and chose Hindi for her doctorate. She did a Ph.D. on famous Hindi author Premchand from MS University, Baroda, in the 1980s, around which time she also took up teaching at Zakir Husain College and Jamia Millia Islamia, according to a Deccan Herald report.
A novelist and short-story writer, Shree wrote her first story ‘Bel Patra’ in 1987. She has five novels to her credit and many short story collections.
Her novels and stories have been translated into many languages, including Gujarati, Urdu, English, French, Siberian, and Korean.
Her fifth novel Ret Samadhi was published in 2018 and was translated by Daisy Rockwell into English and by Annie Montaut into French.
Like any other child growing up in north India, Geetanjali Shree’s first reading memories are of Panchatantra and Chandamama, the Booker Prize website says.
However, she says her work is inspired by many authors like Krishna Sobti, Intizar Hussain, Nirmal Verma, Vinod Kumar Shukla, KB Vaid, Sri Lal Shukl, and many others.
After receiving the International Booker Prize, Shree said: “There is a vast world of literature with rich lineages which still needs to be discovered. I am pleased and humbled to be the conduit for this.”
Talking about her book ret Samadhi, she said, “If you are a writer it becomes your way of being to have stories imbue your senses all the time and also to realise that everything is a story and everything tells a story. This becomes as natural as your breath. Or is your breath!”