The DSC Prize has always encouraged diverse voices that bring alive the layered nuances of the South Asian life, and Bagchi’s novel, a post-colonial saga that unfolds over three generations, adroitly explores human relationships, and the intertwining of fates and cultures in a thoroughly Indian context. The novel’s attention to details, the inventive use of language, and its memorable and well-defined characters make it an outstanding read.
The six shortlisted authors and novels in contention for the DSC Prize this year were Amitabha Bagchi: Half the Night is Gone (Juggernaut Books, India), Jamil Jan Kochai: 99 Nights in Logar (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury, India & UK, and Viking, Penguin Random House, USA), Madhuri Vijay: The Far Field (Grove Press, Grove Atlantic, USA), Manoranjan Byapari: There’s Gunpowder in the Air (Translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha, Eka, Amazon Westland, India), Raj Kamal Jha: The City and the Sea (Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Random House, India), and Sadia Abbas: The Empty Room (Zubaan Publishers, India).
The five member international jury panel for the DSC Prize 2019 and the shortlisted authors were present at the event where the authors did a reading from their shortlisted novels. The winner announcement was well received by the audience present at the IME Nepal Literature where the best of Nepali and South Asian literature were on view. This is in line with the prize’s vision to encourage literary talent in various South Asian countries which it has been doing by announcing the winner in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India and Nepal over the last four years.
Jury chair Harish Trivedi, speaking on behalf of the jury, said, “South Asia is now perhaps more visible and more omnipresent than ever before. There is a South Asia at home and a South Asia abroad and both inhabit a shared literary space of writings originally in English or translated into English. The DSC Prize for South Asian Literature is the only prize which encompasses nine different countries in South Asia and the Diaspora, and this year, we also received entries from writers with no ethnic connection with South Asia. For the five jury members located in five different countries, reading 90 novels in 90 days was a transformative experience. Over the months, we arrived at a diverse and inclusive longlist of 15 and a shortlist of 6 novels, representing the polyphonic richness of the region. It is out of this collective literary churning that there has emerged a winner whose work subsumes many languages and sensibilities.”
The USD 25,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, which was instituted by Surina Narula and Manhad Narula in 2010, is one of the most prestigious international literary awards specifically focused on South Asian writing. Now in its 9th year, the DSC Prize has been successful in bringing South Asian writing to a larger global audience by rewarding and showcasing the achievements of the authors writing about this region. Past winners of the prize have been HM Naqvi of Pakistan, Shehan Karunatilaka of Sri Lanka, Jeet Thayil and Cyrus Mistry from India, American author of Indian origin Jhumpa Lahiri, Anuradha Roy from India, Anuk Arudpragasam of Sri Lanka, and Jayant Kaikini along with translator Tejaswini Niranjana of India, who won the prize last year.
Jury citation for Half the Night is Gone
The DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2019 goes to Amitabha Bagchi for his novel ‘Half the Night is Gone.’ This novel, written in English, feels like a book written in an Indian language, and has the authenticity and the interiority of a work in translation without in fact being a translation. All sub-continental novelists in English since Raja Rao have striven “to express in a language that is not one’s own a sensibility that is one’s own”, and this novel evokes the sensibility of not one but three Indian languages: Hindi, Urdu and Sanskrit. It weaves together three parallel stories, interrogating the relationships between men and women, fathers and sons, masters and servants, and the nation and the individual. It is epic in scope, profound in its exploration of class and gender, and elegantly assured in the way it infuses English with Indian wit and wisdom to achieve an unprecedented commingling of different literatures and cultures.