Jaipur: Indian writer U.R. Ananthamurthy, Aharon Appelfeld from Israel, Lydia Davis from the US and Intizar Husain from Pakistan were among the 10 finalists of the Man Booker International Prize announced at the DSC Jaipur Literary Festival on Thursday.
The £60,000 prize is awarded every two years to a living author of any nationality and celebrates a body of work rather than a single title, published in English.
“Around 150 authors were considered for the prize,” said Sir Christopher Ricks, chair of the judges. “Some of these men and women are in their 80s, the youngest in their 40s and 50s. These are writers we have found ourselves enduringly grateful to, who we will reread.”
Born in Mysore, Ananthamurthy is one of the representatives of the “navya” or “new” movement in the literature of the Kannada language. He grew up a “Gandhian socialist”, read English literature at the University of Mysore and got his doctorate from the University of Birmingham, England. His thesis focused on Politics and Fiction in the 1930s.
In an email interview to Mint Lounge a few years ago when asked about a teacher who inspired him, Ananthamurthy named Yoganarasimhan, the headmaster of his high school in Thirthahalli, a Malnad village in the Sahyadris.
It was from Yoganarasimhan that he learnt about Shakespeare, the writings of Nehru and of Indian freedom fighters. Ananthamurthy recalled the day Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead. “There were no newspapers that were delivered daily but our headmaster got all of his students together to announce the death. Sri Yoganarasimhan was a serene and yet stern-looking headmaster but I saw that he was choking and tears flowed from his eyes when he spoke of the Mahatma’s death. I had never imagined as a little boy that someone wearing a petha (headdress) and a close-collared coat could weep. This may sound an exaggeration but I must confess that my deepest ethical and spiritual feelings were aroused from a headmaster’s tears,” the writer told this newspaper.
Ananthamurthy, who turned 80 recently, is the author of five novels including Samskara (1965), one play, eight short-story collections, three collections of poetry and eight volumes of essays.
Historian Ramachandra Guha, who attended the author’s birthday celebration, wrote in a column for The Telegraph newspaper last month that “no man now alive in India better deserves the term ‘public intellectual’ than Ananthamurthy...Certainly, no English writer in India has anywhere like the social standing of Ananthamurthy, the deep, lifelong connection with his readers and his public”.
The winner of the prize will be announced on 22 May. Previous winners include American author Philip Roth in 2011, Canadian Alice Munro in 2009, Nigerian Chinua Achebe in 2007 and Algerian Ismail Kadare in 2005.
Two authors, Yan Lianke of China and Vladimir Sorokin of Russia, have had their books banned in their home countries.
Marilynne Robinson of the US is the only one to have appeared on a previous list of finalists.