Author Amitabha Bagchi won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2019 for his fiction novel, Half The Night Is Gone on Monday. The literary award, which also gives the winner prize money worth $25,000 was instituted in 2010 and is one of the most prestigious international literary awards specifically focused on South Asian writing.
Bagchi received the award during a ceremony at the IME Nepal Literature Festival on Monday in Pokhara, Nepal. Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal Pradeep Gyawali, along with the co-founder of the DSC Prize Surina Narula presented the winner’s trophy to the author during the event which was attended by literary enthusiasts, writers and the media.
The central character in Bagchi’s novel is a popular Hindi novelist who, after the tragic death of his son, begins to write a family saga of a wealthy businessman and his three sons. By writing about family and morality, his protagonist deals with the crisis in his own life, while trying to make sense of the new India, that evolved after Independence. The jury citation for Half The Night is Gone said:
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.
Apart from Bagchi’s novel, the other five shortlists contending for this year’s DSC Award were: 99 Nights in Logar by Jamil Jan Kochai, The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay, There’s Gunpowder in the Air by Manoranjan Byapari, The City and the Sea by Raj Kamal Jha and The Empty Room by Sadia Abbas. Bagchi has written three novels so far — Above Average, The Householder and This Place which was shortlisted for the Raymond Crossword Book Award in 2014.
This year’s DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2019 was judged by a five-member jury panel which included Harish Trivedi, (Jury Chair) former Professor of English at the University of Delhi, Jeremy Tambling, former Professor of Literature at the University of Manchester, Kunda Dixit, editor of the Nepali Times newspaper in Kathmandu, and author of several books, Carmen Wickramagamage, Professor of English at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, and Rifat Munim, a bilingual writer, essayist, and translator, and the literary editor of Dhaka Tribune in Bangladesh.