Tomb of Sand, the story of an elderly widow thinking back on the 1947 partition of British India into India and Pakistan, was originally written in Hindi and translated by Daisy Rockwell. It is a long book, a novel of enormous intelligence, often digressive and essayistic rather than driven by plot. It is ambitious, trying a good many things with no guarantee they will come off. It asks the reader to be at ease with being puzzled.
Geetanjali Shree’s novel is a family saga set in the shadow of the partition of India.
It demands your patience and attention – and, for the most part, it earns them. And the most importantly this is the first book in any Indian language to win the International Booker Prize given for fiction translated into English. After receiving the International Booker Prize, Shree said: “There is a vast world of literature with rich lineages which still needs to be discovered. I am pleased and humbled to be the conduit for this.”
About The Book: In northern India, an eighty-year-old woman slips into a deep depression after the death of her husband, and then resurfaces to gain a new lease on life. Her determination to fly in the face of convention – including striking up a friendship with a transgender person – confuses her bohemian daughter, who is used to thinking of herself as the more ‘modern’ of the two.
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To her family’s consternation, Ma insists on travelling to Pakistan, simultaneously confronting the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of Partition, and re-evaluating what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a woman, a feminist. Rather than respond to tragedy with seriousness, Geetanjali Shree’s playful tone and exuberant wordplay results in a book that is engaging, funny, and utterly original, at the same time as being an urgent and timely protest against the destructive impact of borders and boundaries, whether between religions, countries, or genders.
Geetanjali Shree and translator Daisy Rockwell at the Booker ceremony
About The Author: A New Delhi-based Hindi author, born in Uttar Pradesh’s Mainpuri in 1957, Shree wrote Ret Samadhi in 2018. She was born Geetanjali Pandey but took her mother’s first name Shree as her last name, she told Outlook in an interview earlier this year. Shree spent her childhood in many towns of UP where her father was posted as a civil servant. She moved to Delhi for higher education where she went on to study History at Delhi University’s Lady Shree Ram College, and do a Master’s from Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Geetanjali Shree has written four novels – Mai, Tirohit, Hamara Sheher Us Baras and Khali Jagah – and two collections of short stories in Hindi. Also to her credit is Between Two Worlds: An Intellectual Biography of Premchand. Her stories have been translated into Gujarati, English, German, Serbian and Japanese. Her novel Khali Jagah has been translated into Urdu in Pakistan and is being translated into English now. The English translation of Mai was shortlisted for the Hutch-Crossword Translation Award in 2000. She has received the Indu Sharma Katha Sammaan, Hindi Akademi Sahityakar Sammaan and Dwijdev Sammaan for her contribution to Hindi literature
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