Vanitybagh“Vanity Bagh” by Anees Salim and “Foreign” by Sonora Jha are representative of works of many new writers who do not mind taking the risks involved in portraying Indian rural reality in English, writes K. Satchidanandan in the Frontline.

It has been some time since the subcontinental English fiction came of age and began to grapple with Indian history and reality with a confidence and an artistry one seldom comes across in its early practitioners. This new confidence that one first found in writers such as Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth and Amitav Ghosh marks many of the new writers who do not mind taking the risks involved in portraying Indian rural reality in English: the risk of exoticisation, of the work looking like an inadequate translation, of the difficulty in expressing in English the nuances of rustic life and speech. And, looking at the result, one can well say it has not been a vain adventure: we now have a corpus of such fiction that can legitimately claim to be as much Indian as fiction written in the languages whose losses in texture are compensated to a great extent by the intimate insight into the lives and minds of the men and women who people their ably painted landscapes.

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Sonora Jha
Sonora Jha

The much-awaited shortlist for The Hindu Prize for Best Fiction 2013 is finally out. The panel of distinguished judges has selected the five books from which the winner will finally be chosen. The panel comprised Malayalam poet, author and critic K. Satchidanandan, poet and writer Arundhathi Subramaniam, author Timeri N. Murari, surgeon and novelist Kavery Nambisan and writer and critic Geeta Doctor.

According to the judges, the number of entries for this year’s The Hindu Prize was overwhelming in its variety and diversity of tone and subject matter. “In narrowing the list down to the five shortlisted novels, we attempted to balance the delight in discovering new voices with the need to prod the conscience of a new generation with unsettling images and ideas that come under the mask of fiction,” says Geeta Doctor.

Sonora Jha
Sonora Jha

“When I was 11 months old, on a train journey with my parents from Patna to Deolali, my temperature hit 104 degrees. At the end of the journey, doctors announced that the fever was just a symptom; I had polio. “But I must congratulate you,” the doctor told my mother. “Your child has survived,” writes Sonora Jha, 45, the author of Foreign, her debut novel published by Random House India. The novel was recently shortlisted for 2013 Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize.

“I walked with a limp all my childhood, my right leg shorter, thinner and weaker than my left. I needed corrective padding on my right shoe and spent hours on physiotherapy,” Jha writes in Tehelka. “No other child in my convent school had polio — in the ’70s, people like us, sons and daughters of middle-class, urban officers of the Indian Army, had better access to medical care. I was an aberration, a curiosity.”