Writer and chief editor of The Indian Express, Raj Kamal Jha, has won the Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize 2020 for his book, The City and the Sea. Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, the late Sultan of Oman and The People of Oman, and choreographer Sandip Soparrkar from India received the Tagore Prize for Social Achievement.
Literary Director of Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize Maja Markunovic said, “The winner of Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize 2020 is The City and the Sea by Raj Kamal Jha, a novel based on the atrocious (Nirbhaya) case of sexual assault and murder, that brought India together in a moral frenzy. From this starting point of factual framework, Raj Kamal Jha takes a leap of imagination and twines a story of love and loss around the bond between a mother and a child that breaks away into realms of phantasmagoria and supernatural where suffering becomes multidimensional, and allusions that mirror our underlying woes strike eerily home.”
— Penguin India (@PenguinIndia) December 7, 2020
Continuing, Markunovic added, “The City and the Sea is not about crude moralising and in many ways defies preconceptions of how such an encumbered topic should be tackled. The core is about the aftermath of the most brutal gender-based violence, yet the word rape is strategically absent from the entire body of text as if it would fail to convey the substance of the experience. Instead, the abominable unsaid was brought to the fore via lyrical, allusive, and disorienting narration that magically falls together to render it somehow more sincere and complex.
The same powerful delicacy is used to broach the difficult bigotry of how we perceive each other with a prismatic approach to its repercussions, which makes the reading experience uniquely empathetic and eye-opening.”
“Introducing Tagore’s Gitanjali, WB Yeats talked about how the poet’s work took the “immeasurably strange,” and moved us, not because of its strangeness but because we met in it our own image, heard in it our own voice. There couldn’t be a more powerful imperative of storytelling today than this humanism – this is what the Tagore Prize celebrates and it’s a privilege to be in the company of its extraordinary finalists. My deepest thanks to the judges and organisers of the Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize 2020. The honour isn’t exactly mine, it belongs to the broken children, women and men in The City and the Sea. Who fall apart, pick up their pieces, and, in doing so, help us become whole again,” the author was quoted as saying.
Founded in 2018 by US-based publisher Peter Bundalo, the award serves as a platform to celebrate world peace, literature, art, education and human rights. Other books in the shortlist included Amitav Ghosh’s Gun Island, Nirmala Govindarajan for Taboo, Ranjit Hoskote for Jonahwhale, Sachin Kundalkar for Cobalt Blue translated from Marathi into English by Jerry Pinto, Varun Thomas Mathew for The Black Dwarves of the Good Little Bay, Sonnet Mondal for Karmic Chanting, Rochelle Potkar for Paper Asylum, Bijoya Sawian for Shadow Men, and Sudeep Sen for EroText. The winner will receive USD 5,000 along with a Rabindranath Tagore statuette.
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