25 June 2022

Indian author Geetanjali Shree wins International Booker Prize for ‘Tomb of Sand’

New Delhi-based author, Geetanjali Shree has won the prestigious International Booker Prize 2022 for her Hindi book, Tomb of Sand.

She is the first from India as well as south Asia, to win the award, which is for translated works of fiction from around the world. Tomb of Sand was the first in Hindi language to even secure a nomination.

The award carries a prize money of £50,000(NZ$ 97,000 approx.) and will be split between Geetanjali Shree and the Vermont (US)-based translator, Daisy Rockwell, who translated the book to English.

This recognition was a “bolt from the blue” for Shree who was born in Mainpuri (in Uttar Pradesh- a northern state of India) in 1957 and currently lives in India’s capital, New Delhi.

“I never dreamt of the Booker, I never thought I could… What a huge recognition. I’m amazed, delighted, honoured and humbled,” the overwhelmed 64-years-old Geetanjali Shree said while receiving the award at a ceremony held in London.

Award money will be split between Shree & Rockwell (Photo courtesy: Twitter/TheBrookerPrize)

Geetanjali Shree is the author of three novels and several short story collections and her work has been translated into English, French, German, Serbian and Korean. Tomb of Sand is the first of her books to be published in the UK.

The 725-page Tomb of Sand was one of five shortlisted titles out of a record number of 135 books submitted.

This ‘enormously engaging’ work of fiction was first published in Hindi in 2018 with the title ‘Ret Samadhi’.

Set in the shadow of the 1947 partition of India, Tomb of Sand follows the adventures of an 80-year-old woman, Ma who unexpectedly gains a new, and highly unconventional, lease of life following the death of her husband.

She travels to Pakistan to the dismay of her family, to confront the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of the partition, and re-evaluates the ‘themes of trauma, motherhood and feminism.’

“Once you’ve got women and a border, a story can write itself. Even women on their own are enough. Women are stories in themselves, full of stirrings and whisperings that float on the wind, that bend with each blade of grass,” the author writes in the opening pages of the novel.

The book has “an exuberance and a life, a power and a passion, which the world could do with right now,” says Frank Wynee, Chair of the Judges for this year’s prize.

Wynee described the book as “enormously engaging’ and ‘extraordinarily funny and fun”.

The International Booker Prize – separate from the Booker Prize, is awarded every year for a book that is translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland.

In 1997, Indian author Arundhati Roy became the first Indian to win the Booker Prize for her novel, “The God of Small Things.”