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Malayalam author M Mukundan wins Rs 25-lakh JCB Book Prize 2021 for his book Delhi: A Soliloquy

Before Mukundan, Benyamin won the prize in 2018 for Jasmine Days (Juggernaut) and S Hareesh got the prize for his book Moustache (Harper Perennial), in 2020.

Written by Aditya Vaddepalli | New Delhi |
November 13, 2021 10:35:42 pm
M Mukundan, JCB Book Prize 2021, JCB Book Prize 2021 winnerMukundan’s novel, a narrative of epic proportions, casts an unflinching gaze at the country’s capital as it changes into the megalopolis that it is today. (Photo: PR handout)

Malayalam author M Mukundan won the Rs 25-lakh JCB Book Prize 2021 for his book Delhi: A Soliloquy (Westland Publication), on Saturday. The book was translated in English by Fathima EV and Nandakumar K. Mukundan has also received the prize trophy, which is a sculpture by Delhi artist duo Thukral & Tagra, titled ‘Mirror Melting’.

Delhi: A Soliloquy is the third Malayalam translation to win the JCB Book Prize. Before Mukundan, Benyamin won the prize in 2018 for Jasmine Days (Juggernaut) and S Hareesh got the prize for his book Moustache (Harper Perennial), in 2020.

Mukundan’s novel, a narrative of epic proportions, casts an unflinching gaze at the country’s capital as it changes into the megalopolis that it is today. It was the unanimous choice of the jury. The other books in the shortlist were Anti-Clock by VJ James, translated from Malayalam by Ministhy S (Penguin Random House India), Name Place Animal Thing by Daribha Lyndem (Zubaan Publishers Pvt. Ltd.) , The Plague Upon Us by Shabir Ahmad Mir (Hachette India) and Gods and Ends by Lindsay Pereira (Penguin Random House).

“I hope the prize will help my book reach more non-Malayalam readers. The book is about poor people of Delhi. I want to thank the poor people of Delhi to help me win this award. I want to dedicate this award to them,” Mukundan said, while accepting the prize.

Delhi: A Soliloquy speaks with grace and poise of the large lives of small people in a city with a broken soul. Clairvoyant in its human empathy, this extraordinary book is the distillation of a lifetime of experience,” said writer and translator Sara Rai, member of the jury.

This year’s five-member jury had Rai, designer and art historian Dr Annapurna Garimella, author Shahnaz Habib, editor of peepli.org, Prem Panicker, and writer and podcaster Amit Varma.

While Mita Kapur, literary director of the JCB Prize for Literature, lauded translators Fathima and Nandakumar for “stepping aside and letting the author’s voice come forth”, Garimella said, “Mukundan’s characters take us back to a time when the promises of the new nation broke; through them, we understand that kindness can endure even as political and social forms fail to fulfil hopes and dreams.”

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