Geetanjali Shree, a Delhi-based Hindi writer, has become the first Indian author to win the International Booker Prize for a native language book. Her original book in Hindi Ret Samadhi has been translated into English as Tomb of Sand and has been selected for the coveted Booker prize.
The 64-year-old writer from Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh will share the 50,000 Pound prize money with Daisy Rockwell, the US-based writer who translated it into English.
This is the first Hindi language book to even be shortlisted for the award. Published in Hindi in 2018 with the title Ret Samadhi, the story traces the transformative journey of Ma, who suffers from depression after the death of her husband.
She travels to Pakistan, confronting trauma that has remained unresolved since she was a teenager who survived the partition of the Indian sub-continent.
Geetanjali told the BBC in an interview that her novel tells human stories that are universal irrespective of their cultural backdrop. "There are many stories that came together in the book... but it's also the story of an old woman who gradually rose from her deathbed to reinvent her life," she said.
Rockwell said Tomb of Sand was one of the most difficult works she had ever translated because of the "experimental nature" of Shree's writing and "her unique use of language". However, she said the experience was also "great fun" and "liberating".
In her acceptance speech, Geetanjali said, "Behind me and this book lies a rich and flourishing literary tradition in Hindi, and other South Asian languages. World literature will be the richer for knowing some of the finest writers in these languages."
"Congratulations to Geetanjali Shree and Reedshreedaiji, who have been enlisted with Tomb of Sand for a long time,” Booker tweeted about the awards.
Bengali author Arun Sinha tweeted, "Yes! Translator Daisy Rockwell and author Geetanjali Shree won the International Booker for Ret Samadhi'. The first win for a Hindi novel, an Indian novel, a South Asian novel. Congrats! The Booker Prize. "
Geetanjali Shree is the author of many short stories and novels. Her 2000 novel Ret samadhi was selected for the Crossword Book Award in 2001.