Each year’s Booker Prize becomes a bestseller. We need a similarly high profile prize here in India. It’s very important that literature gets the same kind of exposure that cinema and sports do,” says novelist Rana Dasgupta, who is the literary director for the newest and richest award on the Indian literary scene — JCB Prize for Literature.
Besides a cash award of Rs 25 lakh for the winner, Rs five lakh will be awarded to the translator, if the winning book is a translated work, and each shortlisted author will be awarded Rs one lakh. The prize is being administered by the JCB Literature Foundation, established this year by the JCB Group. The jury for the 2018 prize includes filmmaker Deepa Mehta, entrepreneur and founder of Murty Classical Library of India Rohan Murty, astrophysicist and science writer Priyamvada Natarajan, novelist and playwright Vivek Shanbhag and writer and translator Arshia Sattar. The prize opened for entries last week and closes on May 31. The longlist will be announced in September, followed by the shortlist in October and the winner in November.
Dasgupta believes that this is the right time for the announcement, as Indian readers are “hungry for books and a connection with authors. Indians are already reading a lot, but we hope to build a new kind of Indian reader”. While there are already prestigious literary prizes in the country, including the Sahitya Akademi Awards presented each year by India’s National Academy of Letters, Dasgupta says that the new prize will be set apart by its “marketing and publicity vision”. Also, unlike many other literary awards, the JCB Prize will not just consider books written in English. “This is completely critical to the prize. For any prize to be meaningful in India, we must consider works in translation too. It will also force publishers to enter more translated works and will draw the attention of the public to these books,” he says.