The winners of The Hindu Prize for Fiction and Non-fiction for 2019 have been announced. The Hindu Prize was instituted in 2010 to honour writers who have spent their lifetime mining the human spirit through their words and ideas.
Tell Her Everything by Mirza Waheed and India, Empire, and First World War Culture: Writings, Images and Songs by Santanu Das have been awarded the literary prize, in the fiction and non-fiction categories, respectively.
The book blurb describes Tell Her Everything, Waheed’s third novel, as “a heartbreaking novel about human ethics, filial love and the corrosive nature of complicity”.
The award citation for Waheed’s novel read– “An extraordinary work of fiction whose complexity, depth and narrative mastery would be hard to match in contemporary world literature,” and described it as “a compelling novel, both a narrative tour de force and an exploration of a profound existential and moral conundrum.”
For the fiction category, the jury included author and diplomat Navtej Sarna, columnist Nilanjana Roy, author Pradeep Sebastian, academician J Devika, and teacher and feminist scholar Rajeswari Sunder Rajan.
On the non-fiction jury were publishing consultant Kamini Mahadevan, researcher and teacher Chandan Gowda, consulting editor Harsh Sethi, author Rustom Bharucha, and academic Shiv Visvanathan.
The non-fiction book by Santanu Das recovers the sensuous experience of combatants, non-combatants and civilians from undivided India in the 1914–1918 conflict and their socio-cultural, visual, and literary worlds. Around 1.5 million Indians were recruited during the First World War, of whom over a million served abroad.
The award citation describes Prof. Das’ work as “a sensitive exploration of the human dimensions of a major modern war that reshaped global politics and culture in fundamental ways”, and as one that “helps to re-examine the scholarly and popular imaginations of the First World War which have tended to ignore the involvement of close to over a million Indians in it, and in particular, the tens of thousands among them who lost their lives.”
Jury members described the winning books as sensitive and complex.
Apart from the winning books, the shortlist for the awards announced earlier this year included:
In the Fiction category— The Assassination of Indira Gandhi by Upamanyu Chatterjee, The Queen of Jasmine Country by Sharanya Manivannan, Latitudes of Longing by Shubhangu Swarup and Heat by Poomani, tr. N. Kalyan Raman.
In the Non-fiction category— Early Indians by Tony Joseph, Polio by Thomas Abraham, The Transformative Constitution by Gautam Bhatia and The Anatomy of Hate by Revati Laul.
The Hindu Prize is usually awarded during The Hindu’s annual literature festival Lit For Life. However the 2020 edition was cancelled and an award ceremony was to be held on March 28 instead. Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the award ceremony has also been cancelled. The Hindu Lit For Life will be back in January 2021.