JCB Prize for Literature 2020: Malayalam author S Hareesh's Moustache, translated by Jayasree Kalathil, wins the award
Moustache revolves around Vavachan, a Pulayan or a lower caste man who gets the opportunity to play the role of a policeman only to earn the ire and fright of the upper castes for sporting the frightening, titular, mustache.
The winner of the 2020 JCB Prize for Literature was announced on 7 November with author S Hareesh and translator Jayasree Kalathil taking home the literary honour for the work Moustache.
While Hareesh will be awarded a winner's purse of Rs 25 lakh for his novel, Kalathil will also receive Rs 10 lakh for her translation of the Malayalam book into English. Moustache revolves around Vavachan, a Pulayan or a lower caste man who gets the opportunity to play the role of a policeman only to earn the ire and fright of the upper castes for sporting the frightening, titular, mustache. What unfolds is a poignant narrative of caste conflict and prejudice all encompassed in this magic moustache.
On receiving the coveted literary prize, Hareesh said in the virtual ceremony that this win was also 'a recognition' of the literature produced in his mother tongue, Malayalam. "I had considered Meesha a very complicated piece to translate," he added, filled with local flavours and diction particular to the region but "Jayasree carried it out beautifully."
Tejaswini Niranjana, chair of the jury said of the winner, "Hareesh engages in an agile and deeply insightful way with the caste and gender equations of the Kuttanad region in this intricate and highly readable story. Jayasree Kalathil’s translation of the novel is fluent and energetic. She conveys the specificity of the context without missing the wood for the trees."
Among the other authors shortlisted for the 2020 prize included Deepa Anappara for Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, Dharini Bhaskar for These, Our Bodies, Possessed by Light, Annie Zaidi for Prelude to a Riot: A Novel and Samit Basu for Chosen Spirits.
The JCB Prize for Literature is awarded every year to a work of fiction produced by an Indian author in a bid to celebrate Indian writing and increase its reach across the world. The prize is also an attempt to honour the work of translators and appreciate the diversity of Indian literature produced in more than twenty languages. In 2019, it was author Madhuri Vijay who won the JCB Prize for her novel, The Far Field.
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