Literary prizes form a fascinating interface between literature and society. Established in 1968, the Booker Prize has rapidly become one of the most prestigious and glamorous literary prizes in the English speaking world. Unlike the Nobel Prize, the Booker focuses on a particular novel rather than on a particular author. It seeks to confer literary recognition on novels that are winners and attend to the novel as a form and medium for new voices, styles and cultures.
The Man Booker Prize expresses a postcolonial response and the prominence of India in its brief history is unquestionable. Besides V.S. Naipaul, the Indian Trinidadian, the prize has been awarded to four Indians-Salman Rushdie in 1981, Arundhati Roy in 1997, Kiran Desai in 2006 and most recently in 2008 to Aravind Adiga. In addition, diasporic Indian authors regularly appear on the shortlist that comes out several months before the prize is actually awarded. Thus, Indian writers have successfully created a niche of their own in English, leaving an indelible mark on the global scene.
Rich in scholarship, Indian Booker Prize Winners is a challenging collection of essays, which propels the field of Indian English writing forward and focuses on the emerging role of Indian English fiction in shaping the most significant annual international award in English letters. The book examines the key critical debates which provide a concise analysis of the Booker winning novels from India. A variety of subjects and viewpoints inform the close readings of these seminal novels, thereby making the book particularly useful for the teachers and students of Indian English literature.
Dr. Sunita Sinha, a gold medallist from the Patna University, Bihar, has been teaching English in Women's College, Samastipur, L.N. Mithila University, Bihar. She has authored two books, Graham Greene: A Study of His Major Novels and Post Colonial Women Writers: New Perspectives. She has edited three anthologies on Postcolonial literature, viz. New Urges in Post Colonial Literature: Widening Horizons, Reconceiving Postcolonialism: Visions and Revisions and Postcolonial Imaginings: Fissions and Fusions. Critical Responses to Kiran Desai and New Perspectives in British Literature Vol. I and II, have been recently published by the Atlantic Publishers & Distributors (P) Ltd. New Delhi. Sunita Sinha has participated in many national and international seminars and conferences and has written many scholarly papers which have been published in various national and international journals. Her areas of interest are British, Indian, Australian, Canadian and Postcolonial literature. She is the Assistant Editor of The Atlantic Critical Review and the Honorary Editor/Director for Bihar, Atlantic Publishers & Distributors (P) Ltd.
The Man Booker is, by common consent, the most prestigious and the highest profile prize awarded each year for the best original full-length novel, written in English, by a citizen of the British Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland. Unlike the Nobel Prize, the booker focuses on a particular novel rather than a particular author, and unlike the Pulitzer Prize, it is associated with England and the Commonwealth rather than with USA.
The Booker holds the key to both commercial and critical success, and is therefore construed as an effective weapon in the book marketer's armoury and as such, it is one of the mighty engines of the 21st-century book trade. Hence, the Booker Prize winner is considered "a signifier of marketplace success, a definition of literary value and a self-reflexive act in which the books Booker chooses actively construct what is meant by Bookers". It seeks to confer literary recognition on novels that are winners and attend to the novel as a form and medium for new voices, styles and cultures.
India has been consistently producing award-winning authors or inspiring others to base their works on Indian colours, themes and identity. As a matter of fact, India's prominence in the brief history of Booker fiction is unquestionable. Just two years after the first ever Booker Prize was conferred in 1969, V.S. Naipaul-the Indian Trinidadian writing about the displaced ethnic Indians-was awarded the Booker for In a Free State. As many as three of the winning novels in the next seven years-though authored by non-Indians-were based on Anglo-Indian colonial experience, viz. The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrel (1973); Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (1975); and Staying On by Paul Scott (1978). In the last 25 years, the prize has been bestowed on four Indians-Salman Rushdie in 1981 for Midnight's Children; Arundhati Roy in 1997 for The God of Small Things; Kiran Desai in 2006 for The Inheritance of Loss; and Aravind Adiga in 2008 for The White Tiger. In addition, diasporic Indian authors appear regularly in the shortlist for Booker.
Such achievement of literary distinction has drawn attention of reviewers and critics all over the world to Indian writing in English. In fact, as Aravind Adiga-the latest Indian star in the Booker's horizon-puts it:
India just teems with untold stories, and no one who is alive to the poetry, the anger and the intelligence of Indian society, will ever run out of stories to write.
Not only has the readership of novels by Indian writers, particularly those experimenting with new ideas, themes and styles, swelled in Europe, India and elsewhere over the years, there is also a new wave of enthusiasm in literary circles for research, critical analysis and academic pursuits pertinent to English literature. The book Indian Booker Prize Winners, in two volumes, has been brought to sustain and to add to that fervour so that a ground is prepared for still higher achievements by Indian English writers. It will provide deeper insights into issues, emotions, themes and styles of the celebrated Indian Booker prize-winning novelists as exhibited in their works. It will immensely benefit students and teachers of English literature, particularly Indian English literature and the genre of fiction, and researchers in these fields.
Representing the combined efforts of erudite scholars in the field of English literature, the book is multivocal and inclusive. I am thankful to the legion of contributors who have worked hard to present their articles. I also wish to thank Dr. K.R. Gupta, Honorary Advisor, Atlantic Publishers and Distributors (P) Ltd. for the confidence evinced in me and for seeing the book through the press.
Literary prizes form a fascinating interface between literature and society as not only do these prizes result in an immediate boost in sales for that year's winner but they also result in an almost immediate canonization for a number of writers. The British have a prize-giving culture and they host some of the world's most prestigious prizes offered for writing in English. In 1968, a young editor at Jonathan Cape, Tom Maschler, successfully approached the agricultural and food company Booker Brothers, for sponsorship of an annual award intended to stimulate interest "in serious British fiction as a whole". Called the Booker, this remains by common consent the most prestigious and highest profile prize awarded each year for the best original full-length novel, written in the English language, by a citizen of either the Commonwealth of Nations or Ireland. The prize was initially named Booker McConnell Prize, after the company's full corporate name at the time. In 2002, Booker's new owners, The Icelandic Group, transferred administration of the prize to the Booker Prize Foundation. The Foundation sought out corporate sponsorship and received it from the investment group, Man. Currently, the official name of the prize is Man Booker, though colloquially it is still referred to as Booker Prize.
Unlike the Nobel Prize, the Booker focuses on a particular novel rather than on a particular author, and whereas the Nobel aims at rewarding "an ideal direction", the Booker aims at catching "the imagination of the press" by establishing an explicitly sporting-style atmosphere-a shortlist of authors, a high-profile panel of judges, and an exciting victor. Unlike the Pulitzer Prize, it is associated with England and Commonwealth rather than with the USA. Talking about the Booker, Richard Todd, in his book, Consuming Fictions, aptly remarks, "English fiction has been invigorated by the pluralism that the Booker Prize pre-eminently has encouraged". Todd further celebrates the positive side effects of the otherwise money-generating colonial-inscribed institution of the Booker which has played a vital role in raising consciousness of the global dimensions of English language fiction, "[The] unprecedented exposure of fiction from English speaking countries other than the United Kingdom or the United States led to an increasingly global picture of fiction in Britain during the course of 1980s.... This reflects a new public awareness of Britain as a pluralist society and has transformed the view that prevailed in 1960s that English language fiction from 'abroad' meant fiction from the United States" (Todd 1996:83). Graham Huggan in his book, The Postcolonial Exotic: Marketing the Margins makes a relevant comment, "In a global cultural economy controlled by huge multinational companies, the corporate sponsorship of arts has become an indisputable fact. The corporate prize 'like the endowed chair' is a 'gift' that brings publicity to the company while functioning as a symbolic marker of 'authorising power".
The Booker holds the key to both commercial and critical success and is therefore an effective weapon in the book marketer's armoury and we can easily say that as far as the 'quality' or 'literary' novel is concerned, the Booker is definitely one of the mighty engines of the 21st century book trade. Hence, a Booker Prize winner is "a signifier of marketplace success, a definition of literary value and a self-reflexive act in which the books Booker chooses actively construct what is meant by Booker". It seeks to confer literary recognition on novels that are winners and attend to the novel as a form and medium for new voices, styles and cultures.
Though also criticised for being unpredictable, arbitrary and unreliable, the Man Booker Prize has picked winners who have staying power and will surely endure. The Booker expresses a postcolonial response in which society is characterised by "the attempt to attain independence from the former coloniser and to establish hybridized identities separately from the formerly colonising culture". It can also be seen as "a post imperial response in which Great Britain refashions its own identity in post imperial terms".
Indian writing has traversed a long drawn path of restorative progress and has come of age. The Empire Writes Back-that's what the world said when a host of Indian authors writing in English burst upon the global literary scene more than a decade ago. Now, the Indian literary empire is conquering new territories and the Indian writers have successfully created a niche of their own in English, leaving an indelible mark on the global scene. In little over a decade, four Indians have prevailed over the competition to fetch home the bounty. In the wake of Aravind Adiga's glowing victory for his debut novel, The White Tiger, Thomas Abraham, President and CFO of Hachette Book Publishing India remarked, "What we all are very happy about is that we've reached a stage where abroad you are not counted as an `Indian'...an Indian author is not an oddity that has to be given a quota of awards". If you track the Booker over the last seven years, there has always been an Indian connection-whether it was Yann Martel writing a book based on an Indian story, or Indian authors being shortlisted. Nandita Aggarwal, an editor at HarperCollins India, says, "As the world gets smaller, more and more people are getting interested in Indian writers."
The prominence of India in the brief history of Booker fiction is unquestionable. Two years after the first Booker Prize was conferred in 1969, V.S. Naipaul-the Indian Trinidadian writing about displaced ethnic Indians-was awarded the Booker for In a Free State. Though authored by non-Indians, three of the winning novels in the following seven years, were about the Anglo-Indian colonial experience-The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell (1973), R.P. Jhabvala's Heat and Dust (1975), and Paul Scott's Staying On (1978). In the past twenty-five years, the prize has been awarded to four Indians-Salman Rushdie in 1981, Arundhati Roy in 1997, Kiran Desai in 2006 and most recently in 2008 to Aravind Adiga. In addition, diasporic Indian authors regularly appear on the shortlist that comes out several months before the prize is actually awarded. There are many more, and they're not "all peddling Indian exotica or the diaspora experience. Indian authors experimenting with new genres are also selling in the European market".
India first made a mark on the global literary map with Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children in 1981. Interestingly, after the Booker picked a forgettable first winner-P.H. Newby's Something to Answer For, there was talk of cancelling it altogether during its first few years. The watershed, however, was undoubtedly 1981 when Salman Rushdie, the first India-born writer bagged it for his book, Midnight's Children. It was for the first year that the prize had live coverage on television and the first time that a truly controversial winner had emerged. Written in exuberant style, the comic allegory of Indian history revolves around the lives of the narrator Saleem Sinai and the 1000 children born after the Declaration of Independence. The book traces India's development from Independence and partition in 1947, through the secession of Bangladesh to the state of emergency under Indira Gandhi. The history of India is given phantasmagorical form by the novel's protagonist and narrator Saleem Sinai, a Hindu child raised by wealthy Muslims, who comes to believe that his own life is a metaphor for the state of his country. Saleem has decided to tell his life story and the story of India as he is, quite literally, falling apart, "I mean quite simply that I have begun to crack all over like an old jug". The children of the book's title are all born at midnight on the day India's Independence is declared and all of them have a special ability. Saleem's is telepathy and it is this gift., which allows him to discover the truth about his own identity and those of the other children. Considered by many to be Rushdie's masterpiece, Midnight's Children is extraordinary for its vast historical sweep and the confidence of its archly modernist prose. It recalls Gunter Grass's Tin Drum but distinguishes itself by its dazzling pyrotechnic display of style: the dizzying array of puns and alliteration, word play and rhyme is at times breathtaking for its exuberant bravery. Rushdie has stated that Joyce and Grass taught him that anything was possible in literature, that boundaries are arbitrary limits imposed by man, that art with belief in itself can rewrite any set of conventions, however firmly entrenched.
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