Home >Mint-lounge >Features >Ananthamurthy loses Man Booker International Prize to Lydia Davis

Renowned Kannada writer U.R. Ananthamurthy lost to American Lydia Davis in the final round of the £60,000 Man Booker International Prize on Wednesday. In a ceremony at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, a panel of judges, headed by eminent writer and academic Sir Christopher Ricks, picked the winner from a shortlist of ten chosen from around the world.

The Man Booker International Prize, which is distinct from the Man Booker Prize, is a biennial award given to a living author of any nationality for a body of work, rather than a single title, published in English or generally available in English translation. The prize recognizes an individual’s achievement in fiction.

Ananthamurthy, 80, was contending for the prize alongside Intizar Husain from Pakistan, Aharon Appelfeld from Israel, and dissident writers like Yan Lianke of China and Vladimir Sorokin of Russia among others. He is the first ever Indian to have been nominated for the prize whose previous winners include American Philip Roth (2011), Canadian Alice Munro (2009), Algerian Ismail Kadare (2005), and Nigerian Chinua Achebe (2007), who passed away recently.

Davis was born in Massachusetts in 1947 and is now a professor of creative writing at the University at Albany, New York. She is best known for translating from French, to great acclaim, Marcel Proust’s Du Côté de Chez Swann (Swann’s Way) and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, as also for writing short fiction, some of extraordinary brevity.

This year the shortlist was selected from the 150 odd authors considered for the prize, and announced at the Jaipur Literature Festival in January. Ranging from writers in their 80s to those in their 40s, the nominees were chosen by a panel comprising authors Tim Parks, Elif Batuman, Aminatta Forna and Yiyun Li, chaired by Ricks.

Although physically infirm, Ananthamurthy had travelled to London to attend the ceremony. According to a PTI report, he said: “My selection in the list of finalists is a triumph of the Kannada language, which is being represented on the global stage today alongside other world languages. As a writer, I am just one among many writing in their mother-tongues in India. I am here on their behalf."

Born in Mysore in 1932, Ananthamurthy is one of the key representatives of the “navya" or “new" movement in Kannada writing. He grew up a Gandhian socialist, read English Literature at the University of Mysore, and got his doctorate from the University of Birmingham in England.

Best known for the novel Samskara (first published in Kannada in 1966), he was also shortlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian literature in 2012 for his novel Bharatipura (published in English in 2010).The Padma Bhushan was conferred on him in 1998.

PTI contributed to this story.

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