Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The debutantes' ball - The Shakti Bhatt prize

It’s not about competing or not competing with the greats,” says Mridula Koshy, winner of the 2009 Shakti Bhatt Prize, about India’s only book prize for debut writers. “When you’re a new writer, it’s not that you’re necessarily an amateur — the need is for the newness of what you have to say to be recognised. It’s about recognising how literature evolves. So, for writers on the shortlist of this sort of prize, what it does is to allow writers to engage with readers, and — just as important — with other writers.” This year’s Shakti Bhatt Prize shortlist spotlights six writers across a wide range of genres — three first novels, two of them from Pakistan, the biography of one of the subcontinent’s most fiercely political families, a graphic novel set in the Delhi of the Emergency, and a mesmerising food-and-travel odyssey. With Mahesh Dattani, Kalpana Swaminathan and Ruchir Joshi as the judges, this promises to be closely fought. Shakti Bhatt, the talented and energetic editor who died tragically young, believed that good writing crosses genres and national boundaries — and this year’s shortlist more than delivers the goods for readers.

Home Boy, H M Naqvi (Random House)
H M Naqvi’s swaggering debut novel follows the (mis)fortunes of three young Pakistanis in the before-and-after world of 9/11 America. Their Wall Street jobs and comfortably cushioned lives fall apart in the wake of the terror attacks, and Naqvi chronicles all of this with flair and black humour. Perhaps the best thing about Home Boy is Naqvi’s ear for New York and immigrant accents, and his ability to shuttle with ease between the rhythms of Lahore life and the fast-paced, fluctuating and often brutal demands of Manhattan in an age of siege. Though Home Boy falters in its second half, this still remains an intelligent and sharply comic look at the politics of race and culture in today’s riven world.

Full report here Business Standard

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