Geetanjali Shree is first Indian winner of International Booker Prize

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Geetanjali Shree has become the first Indian writer to win the International Booker Prize. It was the first Hindi-language book to be shortlisted for the £50,000 prize.

Her novel Tomb of Sand, a family saga set in the shadow of the partition of India, follows an 80-year-old woman after the death of her husband.

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

In her acceptance speech, she said being the first book in Hindi to win the prize felt good.

“Behind me and this book lies a rich and flourishing literary tradition in Hindi, and in other South Asian languages. World literature will be the richer for knowing some of the finest writers in these languages,” she said.

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Originally published in Hindi as ‘Ret Samadhi’ in 2018, ‘Tomb of Sand’ is the first of Shree’s books to be published in the UK in English by Tilted Axis Press in August 2021.

Frank Wynne, the chair of judges, said the panel were “captivated by the power, the poignancy and the playfulness” of her novel.

The prize money will be split between Shree and the book’s translator, US-based Daisy Rockwell.

The International Booker Prize is awarded every year for a book that is translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland.

This is different from the Man Booker Prize which is for English novels and has been won by Indians in the past, including Arundhati Roy and Aravind Adiga.

Shree’s 725-page novel competed against five other shortlisted titles, by Mieko Kawakami, Bora Chung, Jon Fosse, Claudia Pineiro and former winner Olga Tokarczuk.