Kaikini's Mumbai stories scoop $25k DSC Prize

Kaikini's Mumbai stories scoop $25k DSC Prize

Indian writer Jayant Kaikini, along with translator Tejaswini Niranjana, has won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2018 worth $25,000 (£19,200) for the Mumbai-set short story collection No Presents Please (Harper Perennial).

Kaikini’s vignettes of Mumbai city living were originally written in the Dravidian language of Kannada, and translated into English by Niranjana. They beat the likes of Kamila Shamsie, Mohsin Hamid and Neel Mukherjee in the award’s eight year.

The DSC Prize has always encouraged writing in regional languages and translations, and this is the first time that a translated work has won the prize, a prize spokesperson said following the announcement at the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet in Kolkata, India, on Friday (26th January). The prize was awarded to Jayant Kaikini and Tejaswini Niranjana, along with a unique trophy, by writer Ruskin Bond. 

“This magnificent book gives us a protagonist that is vivid yet full of contradictions, spirited yet lonely, embattled yet big-hearted – the city of Mumbai,” the spokesperson said. “Empathy and survival are the constant, codependent themes that unify every strand of this extraordinary book, creating a shimmering mosaic of a conflicted city that is as kind as it is, at times, cruel.”

Kaikini and Niranjana fought off competiton from Kamila Shamsie for her Women's Prize for Fiction-winning Home Fire (Bloomsbury), Manu Joseph's Miss Laila Armed And Dangerous (4th Estate), Mohsin Hamid's 2017 Man Booker shortlisted Exit West (Hamish Hamilton,) while Neel Mukherjee had been nominated for A State Of Freedom (Chatto & Windus) along with Harilal & Sons (Speaking Tiger) by Sujit Saraf. The nominations, revealed in Novemeber, followed a record number of 88 entries.

The award was judged by an international panel featuring the Guardian's Claire Armitstead, as well as history professor Rudrangshu Mukherjee in the role of jury chair; author Nandana Sen; Tissa Jayatilaka, who was the executive director of the United States-Sri Lanka Fulbright Commission; and Firdous Azim, professor of English at BRAC University, Bangladesh.

Mukherjee said of No Presents Please: “The jury was deeply impressed by the quiet voice of the author through which he presented vignettes of life in Mumbai and made the city the protagonist of a coherent narrative. The Mumbai that came across through the pen of Kaikini was the city of ordinary people who inhabit the bustling metropolis. It is a view from the margins and all the more poignant because of it. This is the first time that this award is being given to a translated work and the jury would like to recognize the outstanding contribution of Tejaswini Niranjana, the translator.”