Few authors, after receiving a prestigious literary prize, wish they had not written the winning book. But Akhil Sharma, newly crowned winner of the Folio Prize, is no ordinary author – and the traumatic 13-year process of writing his acclaimed novel, he said, has left him “damaged”.
Family Life, the prize-winning work, is an intensely personal novel which fictionalises his family’s move to the US – a move that was shattered by a devastating tragedy. He started writing at the age of 30, and now, at 43, and on the night of the award, said that the effort had “shattered my youth”.
Sharma was born in Delhi and moved with his family to America at the age of eight. Two years later, his brother Anup, who was then 14, dived into a pool and hit his head on the bottom. He was underwater, stunned, for three minutes, and was left with severe brain damage when they pulled him out.