The inaugural DSC South Asian Literature Prize, announced on Saturday evening at the Jaipur Literature Festival, was awarded to Pakistani-American author HM Naqvi for his 2010 novel, Homeboy.
DSC Prize jury chairperson Nilanjana Roy, who presented the award to Naqvi, said that the novel deserved commendation for “the raw energy of its prose and its evocation of a generation who can’t go home again.”
On the front lawns of the Diggi palace hotel, the award ceremony, anchored by actor Kabir Bedi, introduced the audience to the motives and aims of the prize.
“This prize is concerned with South Asia,” Manhad Narula, director, DSC, and member of the DSC Prize Steering Committee, said. “That makes it a subject matter prize, rather than a nationality prize.”
The prize, an award of $50,000, will be awarded annually by a jury to the best work of fiction pertaining to the South Asian region. The lack of a criterion for national eligibility differentiates the DSC Prize significantly from other major literary awards, such as the UK’s Man-Booker Prize, which is awarded only to writers from the Commonwealth, or the USA-specific National Book Awards.
Roy remarked that the literary establishment had only recently begun to debate and define Asian fiction in a global conversation long dominated by the northern hemisphere. “Latin America has the Cervantes Prize, and Africa in recent years has the Caine Prize,” she said. “With the DSC Prize we’ve helped to fill something of a blank space in the literary world.”
The other shortlisted nominees for the prize this year included Amit Chaudhuri’s The Immortals, Musharraf Ali Farooqi’s The Story of a Widow, Tania James’ The Atlas of Unknowns, Manju Kapur’s The Immigrants, and Neel Mukherjee’s A Life Apart.
Naqvi, a former finance professional and graduate of Boston University’s creative writing program, said that he wrote Homeboy over seven years, starting in 2003, when he worked days and wrote through the night to complete it. “I was destitute,” he said. “A lot of hard work went into this novel, and this is the culmination of a journey.”
“It’s about damn time South Asia had a prize of its own,” he added.