New Delhi: The inaugural edition of the JCB Prize for Literature, billed as India’s richest literary award, announced its shortlist of five novels today. A healthy mix of original writing in English and fiction in translation will now be competing for the Rs25 lakh prize, which will be announced on 24 October. Each of the writers in the shortlist will be awarded Rs1 lakh and in case a work in translation wins the prize, the translator will be given Rs5 lakhs.

The shortlist features Half The Night Is Gone (Juggernaut Books) by Amitabha Bagchi, Jasmine Days (Juggernaut Books) by Malayalam writer Benyamin, translated by Shahnaz Habib, Poonachi or The Story Of A Black Goat (Context-Westland) by Tamil writer Perumal Murugan, translated by N Kalyan Raman, All The Lives We Never Lived (Hachette) by Anuradha Roy, and Latitudes Of Longing (HarperCollins Publishers India), a debut novel by journalist Subhangi Swarup.

Speaking about the shortlist, Shanbhag, who is chair of the jury, said in a statement, “The job of literature is to supply a language for reality, and these books are all exquisite in their description of the worlds–often very turbulent worlds–we inhabit. But literature is also a record of the sensitivity of the observer – and these novels are a testament to the beauty and richness of human experience."

The JCB Prize was founded under the directorship of writer Rana Dasgupta earlier this year. Its aim is to transform the literary and publishing landscape of India, which is increasingly dominated by mass market fiction and non-fiction, into a space that allows for the growth and appreciation of literary fiction.

In its first edition, the prize is judged by a jury comprising illustrious names from various fields of excellence in the arts and the sciences such as Rohan Murty, Vivek Shanbhag, Arshia Sattar and Priyamvada Natarajan.

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