Journalist and editor A.S. Panneerselvan is the jury chair for the fifth edition of the Rs 25 lakh JCB Prize for Literature, India’s richest literary award. Jury members are — Author Amitabha Bagchi, author and academician Rakhee Balaram, historian and academician Dr J Devika and, author Janice Pariat.
The jury represents a range of Indian languages and mediums of expression between them and brings a set of diverse points of view to the task of selecting the best of fiction from India.
The jury will announce the long list of ten titles on September 2 (subject to change), followed by the shortlist of five titles on October 3. The winner of the will be declared at the awards ceremony in November, on a date to be announced.
If the winning work is a translation, the translator will be awarded an additional Rs 10 lakh. Each of the five shortlisted authors will receive Rs 1 lakh; if a shortlisted work is a translation, the translator will receive Rs 50,000.
Commenting on this year’s jury, Mita Kapur, Literary Director of the JCB Prize for Literature, said: “Every year at the JCB Prize for Literature, we are privileged to read books that are born in different parts of the country, written in English and in Indian languages translated into English, created by emerging as well as established writers.
“To do justice to these myriad voices and worlds, the JCB Prize for Literature needs a jury that is as diverse and interesting as the books themselves. Our 2022 panel brings together writers, editors, art historians and translators to lend their nuanced assessment of the submissions we receive. With their vast experience and unique sensibilities, we are sure they will discover the gems that will make their way onto every book lover’s must-read list,” Kapur added.
The 2021 JCB Prize for Literature was awarded to “Delhi: A Soliloquy” by M. Mukundan, translated from the Malayalam by Fathima EV and Nandakumar K, and published by Westland.
Hailed as a contemporary classic in Malayalam, it’s a masterful novel about ordinary people whose lives and stories have leached into the very soil and memories of Delhi.
This was the third time in four years and the second year in succession that a Malayalam translation was so honoured.
Aiming to increase inclusivity in readership, the book was also made available by the JCB Literature Foundation in a digitally accessible format for anyone in the visually impaired spectrum.
Other previous winners have been ‘Jasmine Days’ by Benyamin (2018), translated from the Malayalam by Shahnaz Habib, ‘The Far Field’ by Madhuri Vijay (2019), and ‘Moustache’ by S. Hareesh (2020), translated from the Malayalam by Jayasree Kalathil.
“Being a jury member of a well-resourced literary prize is the best way to know what is happening in the world of letters and ideas,” Panneerselvan said.
“Fiction has a way of capturing the multiple hues of human experience which eludes a purely journalistic or academic pursuit. The prize has no artificial literary barrier such as language or region. The conscious decision to include translations truly widens the scope. The entire exercise from creating a longlist, going to a shortlist, and then finalising the winner, is a celebration of the pluralistic creative tradition of South Asia,” he added.
A.S. Panneerselvan is a journalist, editor and columnist. He heads the Centre for Study in Public Sphere, Roja Muthiah Research Library in Chennai. He is also the author of ‘Karunanidhi: A Life’, a definitive biography of M Karunanidhi, and the editor of an anthology of essays, ‘Uncertain Journeys’. In 2022, the Tamil Nadu government conferred him with the GU Pope Award for his literary contributions. In his extensive career in the media, he has worked with several prestigious media houses and networks, including the Sun Network, Outlook magazine, and the Hindu, amongst others. His next book is the ‘Periodic Table of Tamil Modernity: 1858 to 1968’.
Amitabha Bagchi is the author of four novels. The first, ‘Above Average’, was a bestseller. His second novel, ‘The Householder’, was published to critical acclaim, the third, ‘This Place’, was shortlisted for the Raymond Crossword Book Award 2014, and the fourth, ‘Half the Night is Gone’, won the 2019 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature and was shortlisted for the 2018 JCB Prize for Literature. He has written and published several research papers over his extensive career as a researcher and professor, specialising in Computer Science.
Janice Pariat is the author of ‘The Nine-Chambered Heart’, ‘Boats on Land: A Collection of Short Stories’, and ‘Seahorse: A Novel’. She was awarded the Young Writer Award by the Sahitya Akademi and the Crossword Book Award for Fiction in 2013. In 2014, she was the Charles Wallace Creative Writing Fellow at the University of Kent, and a Writer in Residence at the TOJI Residency in South Korea in 2019. Janice also teaches Creative Writing and Art History at Ashoka University. Her novel ‘Everything the Light Touches’ is forthcoming.
Rakhee Balaram is an Assistant Professor of Global Art & Art History at the University of Albany, State University of New York, where she specializes in modern and contemporary art. She is the author of Counterpractice: Psychoanalysis, Politics and the Art of French Feminism and 20th-Century Indian Art: Modern, Post-Independence, Contemporary. Her curatorial work includes Fragility, an exhibition of contemporary Indian art. Her research has been supported by the Art Histories Fellowship in Berlin, the ICI Berlin Institute of Cultural Inquiry, and the Tata SPEAR grant, among others. Balaram holds double doctorates in French Literature from Cambridge University and History of Art from The Courtauld Institute of Art.
Dr J Devika is a historian, feminist, social critic and academician. She currently researches and teaches at the Centre for Development Studies. She has authored several books and articles on gender, politics, social reforms and development in Kerala in publications like Kafila, Economic and Political Weekly and The Wire. She has translated both fiction and non-fiction books between Malayalam and English, including the translation of Nalini Jameela’s autobiography and the short stories of K.R. Meera and Sarah Joseph.