Books & Literature

Sri Lankan author Anuk Arudpragasam bags 2017 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature

Agency | November 18, 2017 08:01 PM

DHAKA: Sri Lankan author Anuk Arudpragasam's "The Story of a Brief Marriage" -- a touching tale of a young man trapped on the frontlines between the Sri Lankan Army and the Tamil Tigers -- has bagged the $25,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2017. .

Related in meditative, nuanced and powerful prose, the shattering novel marks the arrival of an extraordinary new literary voice. Bangladesh Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith presented the award to Arudpragasam at the magnificent Bangla Academy here during the closing ceremony of the three-day long Dhaka Literature Festival on Saturday evening.

Arudpragasam announced he would donate one-third of the prize money to the organisations working in northeast Sri Lanka, to the cause of Rohingya Muslims and to those providing succour to Muslims in Kashmir.

"The jury met and discussed the shortlisted novels in detail. As all the shortlisted novels had considerable strengths and remarkable literary quality, deciding the winner was not an easy task. However, the jury agreed that Anuk Arudpragasam was the best possible choice for his outstanding novel, "The Story of a Brief Marriage". The novel is impressive for its intensity and rich detail and for exploring the tragic heart of war with such quiet eloquence. It is also a testament to the redemptive power of love, and to the human spirit's capacity for hope," jury chair Ritu Menon said.

Speaking to IANS soon after receiving the prize, Arudpragasam said that he now "hopes to become a full-time writer" and that it was a "great honour for him to be recognised by the best from the fraternity".

"I am young and currently pursuing my Ph.D. I hope to return to Sri Lanka and become a professor if I cannot become a full-time writer. I had a wonderful literary agent and I got lucky perhaps in publishing very easily. But I really hope more and more people read this novel to explore the depths of tragedy that people in Sri Lanka have gone through," Arudpragasam said.

Apart from Anuk Arudpragasam's "The Story of a Brief Marriage," the other four novels in the shortlist were Aravind Adiga's "Selection Day"; Anjali Joseph's "The Living"; Karan Mahajan's "The Association of Small Bombs"; and "In the Jungles of the Night" by Stephen Alter.

"This year the shortlisted novels were all equally exciting with diverse subjects which brought out the nuances and the changing dynamics in South Asian life in a unique and evocative way. It must have been a tough task for the jury members to choose from these five exceptional contenders and arrive at the eventual winner. We are honoured to be invited to give the award this year in Bangladesh. The DSC Prize has now completed seven successful years, and it remains focused on recognizing and showcasing the immense talent writing about the South Asian region and bringing it to a larger global audience," said Surina Narula, co-founder of the DSC Prize.

The DSC prize was founded in 2010 and over the past seven years has emerged as a major literary award. Apart from Menon, an eminent feminist writer; Valentine Cunningham, Professor Emeritus of English Language and Literature at Oxford University; Steven Bernstein; celebrated screenwriter, director, author, cinematographer and lecturer based out of Los Angeles; Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, revered radio and television broadcaster from London; and Senath Walter Perera, Senior Professor in English, University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka.

Past winners of the DSC Prize include H.M. Naqvi of Pakistan, Shehan Karunatilaka of Sri Lanka, Jeet Thayil and Cyrus Mistry from India. Jhumpa Lahiri won it in 2015 for "The Lowland". The winner last year was Anuradha Roy for "Sleeping on Jupiter".

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