Geetanjali’s ‘Tomb of Sand’ first Hindi novel to bag the Booker

Daisy Rockwell (L) and Geetanjali Shree holding up a copy of ‘Tomb of Sand’. Photo: Twitter/@TheBookerPrizes

A Delhi-based writer Geetanjali Shree has become the first Indian writer to win the International Booker Prize.

Her novel titled Ret Samadhi, translated into English as Tomb of Sand by Daisy Rockwell, won the International Booker Prize. It was the first Hindi-language book to be shortlisted for the £50,000 prize.

“Congratulations to Geetanjali Shree and @shreedaisy who have been longlisted with Tomb of Sand: #2022InternationalBooker #TombofSand #GeetanjaliShree #DaisyRockwell@TiltedAxisPress,” The Booker Prizes said in a tweet.

It is a story set in the shadow of the partition of India, which follows an elderly woman after the death of her husband.

“Yessss! Translator Daisy Rockwell and author Geetanjali Shree win the International Booker for ‘Tomb of Sand’ (‘Ret Samadhi’ in the original). A first win for a Hindi novel, an Indian novel, a south Asian novel. Congratulations! @TheBookerPrizes,” Bengali writer Arunava Sinha tweeted.

In her acceptance speech, Shree said: “I never dreamt of the Booker, I never thought I could. What a huge recognition, I’m amazed, delighted, honoured and humbled.”

“There is a melancholy satisfaction in the award going to it. ‘Ret Samadhi/Tomb of Sand’ is an elegy for the world we inhabit, a lasting energy that retains hope in the face of impending doom. The Booker will surely take it to many more people than it would have reached otherwise, that should do the book no harm,” the 64-year-old author added.

Shree expressed her delight at being the first book of fiction in Hindi to win a Booker Prize, saying, “It feels nice to be the means through which that happened.”

“But behind me and this book lies a rich and flourishing literary tradition in Hindi, and in other South Asian languages. World literature will be richer for knowing some of the finest writers in these languages. The vocabulary of life will increase from such an interaction,” she said.

Daisy Rockwell joined Shree on stage to receive her award for translating the novel she described as a “love letter to the Hindi language”.

Geetanjali Shree is the author of several short stories and novels. Her 2000 novel Mai was shortlisted for the Crossword Book Award in 2001.

The Booker Prize, formerly known as the Man Booker Prize, is a literary prize awarded each year for the best novel written in English and published in the United Kingdom or Ireland. However, its sister prize— the International Booker Prize,which Shree won— is awarded for a book translated into English and published in the United Kingdom or Ireland.