Noted author, literary translator Sara Rai will head the five-member jury for the Rs 25 lakh JCB Prize for Literature 2021, one of India’s most coveted literary awards, it was announced on Thursday.
The panel includes designer and art historian Annapurna Garimella, author and translator Shahnaz Habib, journalist and editor Prem Panicker and writer and podcaster Amit Varma.
Representing a vast range of Indian languages and mediums of expression between them, the jury brings a set of diverse points of view to the task of selecting the best of fiction from India this year. In its fourth year, the prize is funded by India’s leading manufacturer of earthmoving and construction equipment, JCB India Ltd, and administered by the JCB Literature Foundation.
Commenting on this year’s jury, Mita Kapur, Literary Director of the JCB Prize for Literature, said: “Each year at the JCB Prize for Literature, we are privileged to discover fresh voices and stories from across the country, both in translation and in English. Our aim while selecting a jury is to find people who would appreciate this diversity of talent.
“This year, our jury members are all authors, with three of them being award-winning translators as well. I trust their diverse interests and long engagement with the art of writing to shape their discussions of the books submitted and their final judgement for the 2021 Prize,” Kapur added.
The jury will announce the longlist of ten titles on September 6, followed by the shortlist of five titles on October 4. The winner will be announced at the awards ceremony in November 2021. 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.
“The JCB Prize for Literature provides a wonderful platform to showcase the range of literary voices active in contemporary fiction writing in India. I am happy to be associated with the award and to work with the others in the 2021 jury, all experts in their own fields. The JCB Literature Foundation and the jury enthusiastically look forward, in the 4th edition of the JCB Prize for Literature, to be able to nurture the power of storytelling both in English and in the Indian languages, and allow readers today, the opportunity to engage with the best literary works of fiction that India has to offer,” Jury Chairman Sara Rai said.
Sara Rai is a writer and literary translator working with Hindi, Urdu, and English. She has published three collections of short stories in Hindi with her first novel, “Cheelvali Kothi” (The House of Kites) published in 2010. The German translation of her selected short fiction, “Im Labyrinth” (The Labyrinth) won the Coburg Rückert Prize 2019, and was also nominated for the Weltempfanger Prize, Frankfurt 2020. Her translation of Vinod Kumar Shukla’s “Blue is Like Blue” won the Atta Galatta Prize 2019 and the Matrubhumi Award 2020. Over the years her work has been translated into Urdu, German, French, Italian and English.
Annapurna Garimella is a designer and an art historian. Her latest book is a co-edited Marg volume titled “The Contemporary Hindu Temple: Fragments for a History” (2019) and her upcoming edited volume is titled “The Long Arc of South Asian Art: A Reader in Honor of Vidya Dehejia”. She is the Managing Trustee of Art, Resources and Teaching Trust, along with heading Jackfruit Research and Design.
Shahnaz Habib is the author of the nonfiction book “Airplane Mode”, and the translator of the novels “Jasmine Days” and “Al-Arabian Novel Factory”. She, along with the author Benyamin, won the JCB Prize for Literature for “Jasmine Days” in 2018. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker online, Creative Non-fiction, Agni, Brevity, The Guardian, and Afar, among many others. She currently teaches writing at The New School and consults for the United Nations as well.
Prem Panicker is the editor of Peepli.org, an independent website dedicated to longform multimedia storytelling. He has worked as a journalist and editor for over 30 years across print and digital mediums. He was one of the team of journalists who helped start Rediff.com. and has also worked as the Managing Editor, for Yahoo! India. He conducts storytelling workshops, and consults various media houses from time to time.
Amit Varma is a writer and podcaster based in Mumbai. He writes “The India Uncut Newsletter” and hosts the longform conversation podcast, “The Seen and the Unseen”. He has been a journalist for over two decades, and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007 and 2015. He also teaches the online course, The Art of Clear Writing.
The 2020 Prize was awarded to “Moustache” by S. Hareesh, translated from the Malayalam by Jayasree Kalathil and published by HarperCollins India. With an aim to increase inclusivity in readership, the book was also made available by the JCB Literature Foundation in a digitally accessible format as part of an initiative for the visually impaired.