Keralite writer Benyamin bags India's richest literary prize

Keralite writer Benyamin bags India's richest literary prize
'Jasmine Days' is one of the twin novels, Al-Arabian Novel Factory’ and ‘Mullappoo Niramulla Pakalukal’ which sheds light on the political strains of West Asian nations.
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New Delhi: Benyamin, the author of 'Jasmine Days', translated from Malayalam into English by Shahnaz Habib, is the winner of the first edition of the Rs 25 lakh JCB Prize for Literature, India's richest literary prize.

The award was announced at a specially curated dinner event late Wednesday evening here. 'Jasmine Days' is published by Juggernaut Books.

The book was first published in Malayalam in 2014 as Mullappoo Niramulla Pakalukal and then translated into English by Shahnaz Habib.

The winning author congratulated all the other shortlisted authors and described each of them as equally deserving. "It is one of ten most wonderful evenings of my life," Benyamin said, pointing out that authors are often at the receiving end of troubles.

"It was fantastic. We were high on books for six months and the books enriched us," said Vivek Shanbhag, the chair of the jury.

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Literary Director of the Prize Rana Dasgupta thanked all shortlisted authors and publishers and said that it was a great experience for the organisers.

Benyamin's two novels ‘Al-Arabian Novel Factory’ and ‘Mullappoo Niramulla Pakalukal’ were noted for the vivid portrayal of political strains in the West Asian countries that serve as a backdrop to his tales.

The subject is seldom touched upon even by the chroniclers of expatriate lives. Though the mindless bloodletting in the region is widely condemned, most debates stop short of searching the forces that lead to the violence. Benyamin’s works do exactly that.

The twin novels, which follow a candid-cam approach to lay bare the personal tales shaped by the history and politics of the region, are inter-linked. A reader would not be finished until she goes through both of them even though they present stories that can be told independently of each other.

Samira Parveen, a radio jockey, is the protagonist of the novels. They are about her life and the lives related to hers. In ‘Mullappoo Niramulla Pakalukal’, Samira tells her own story, while ‘Al-Arabian Novel Factory’ talks about Samira’s life story which was banned in her own country.

The other shortlisted authors for the first edition of the prize were Perumal Murugan for 'Poonachi or The Story of a Black Goat,' Shubhangi Swarup for 'Latitudes of Longing,' Amitabha Bagchi for 'Half The Night Is Gone' and Anuradha Roy for 'All The Lives We Never Lived.'

Benyamin had shot to limelight with his blitzkrieg work, 'Aadu Jeevitham', that tells the travails of a Keralite expatriate, who gets duped on the pretext of a job in the gulf and finally ends up in misery on a desert.

(With inputs from IANS)

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