The DSC Prize for South Asian Literature announced their shortlist on November 27th.
- The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Bengali)
- The Mirror of Beauty by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi (Indian)
- The Scatter Here is Too Great by Bilal Tanweer (Pakistani)
- A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie (Pakistani)
- Noontide Toll by Romesh Gunesekera (Sri Lankan born British writer)
The DSC Prize is not one I usually follow. At least not closely. Most of the books involved are written in English (as is the case with this year’s shortlist) and I’ve been focusing on translations to the exclusion of almost everything else these days. But Stu from Winstonsdad’s Blog & Lisa from the ANZ LitLovers LitBlog invited me to join their 2015 Shadow Jury and I accepted, of course. They’re two of my favorites and I was honored they thought of me. It was only afterwards that I realized that I had three weeks to read five books. Then, on the week of January 15th, we will meet in a three person MMA bare knuckle cage match to determine the winner. Three bloggers and five books will enter. Only one will leave.
(Well, one blogger and one book – so that’s technically two. Only two will leave. Not as dramatic. And I probably should mention the whole MMA cage fight aspect to Stu & Lisa. I’m not sure they read the official DSC rules and guidelines for setting up shadow juries).
I’m three books in and working on a review of A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie for the weekend – and so far I am pleasantly surprised. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, it’s doubtful that I would have gotten to any of these novels without the Shadow Jury incentive. A God in Every Stone was lovely and became one of my best novels read in 2014. A gorgeous World War I tale set in England & Peshawar (now a city in Pakistan, but during the period the novel is set still a part of British India) that works on multiple levels. Beautiful writing, vivid character portraits, evocative of a sense of place and historical urgency – overall as close to flawless as it gets.
The Scatter Here Is Too Great by Bilal Tanweer was initially less satisfying because it felt disjointed, but became one of those books that brilliantly pulls itself together at the end. Described as a collection of short stories, the last fits in so neatly with the overall theme that it must have been intentional on Tanweer’s part. I just finished today and am still processing my relationship to it.
Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland is next on deck. She’s an author I’ve been meaning to get to for years (like Zadie Smith) but never actually got to. I imagine her as someone whose work a reader either connects with or does not – without purchase between. We’ll soon see if that’s true.
The official winner of the 2015 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature will be announced on January 22nd.