M A I N   N E W S

Kiran Desai wins Booker
Youngest-ever woman to win prize
Prasun Sonwalkar

London, October 11
Kiran Desai, daughter of prominent Indian origin writer Anita Desai, created literary history by becoming the youngest ever woman to win the prestigious Man Booker Prize for her book “The Inheritance of Loss”at the age of 35.

Kiran won the 50,000 pounds prize last night for her second book, described by reviewers as a “radiant, funny and moving family saga” and “the best, sweetest, most delightful novel.”

Three novels by Kiran's mother, Anita Desai - "Clear Light of Day", "In Custody" and "Fasting, Feasting"- had been earlier shortlisted for the prize but failed to make it.

Noted writer Salman Rushdie once described Kiran as a “terrific writer.”

The chairperson of the judges, Hermione Lee, said at the awards dinner at the Guildhall:“We are delighted to announce that the winner of the Man Booker Prize for 2006 is Kiran Desai’s “The Inheritance of Loss,”- a magnificent novel of humane breadth and wisdom, comic tenderness and powerful political acuteness.

“The winner was chosen, after a long, passionate and generous debate, from a shortlist of five other strong and original voices.” Born in India on September 3, 1971, Kiran is a student at Columbia University's Creative Writing Course. Her first novel, “Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard,” received accolades from many notable figures and an excerpt was featured in the New Yorker India Fiction issue, and in “Mirrorwork,” Salman Rushdie,s controversial anthology of 50 years of Indian writing.

Kiran is the first woman to win the Man Booker since 2000 when Margaret Atwood scooped the prize with “The Blind Assassin”. Kiran was presented the cheque for 50,000 pounds at the awards dinner.

Over and above the prize money, Kiran is guaranteed a huge increase in sales and recognition worldwide. Each of the six shortlisted authors, including the winner, receives 2,500 pounds and a designer-bound edition of his or her book.

The judging panel for the 2006 Man Booker Prize for Fiction was: Hermione Lee (Chair), biographer, academic and reviewer; Simon Armitage, poet and novelist; Candia McWilliam, award-winning novelist; critic Anthony Quinn; and actor Fiona Shaw.

Hermione Lee said at the awards dinner, “ it is clear to those of us who have read Anita Desai that Kiran Desai has learned from her mother’s work.

“Both write not just about India but about Indian communities in the world.

The remarkable thing about Kiran Desai is that she is aware of her Anglo-Indian inheritance - of Naipaul and Narayan and Rushdie - but she does something pioneering.

“ She seems to jump on from those traditions and create something which is absolutely of its own. The book is movingly strong in its humanity and I think that in the end is why it won.”

Kiran said in a recent interview in the US: “ I was born in India, grew up in India, left when I was 14 and spent a year in England, and then I moved to the States and I have been studying here ever since.

Reviewing the award-winning book in The New York Times, noted Indian writer Pankaj Mishra wrote: “Although it focuses on the fate of a few powerless individuals, Kiran Desai’s extraordinary new novel manages to explore, with intimacy and insight, just about every contemporary international issue: globalisation, multiculturalism, economic inequality, fundamentalism and terrorist violence.

“Despite being set in the mid-1980s, it seems the best kind of post-9/11 novel.”

Kiran beat five other writers on the shortlist to win the prize, including favourite Sarah Waters, for her book, “The Night Watch.” Other contenders were: Kate Grenville’s “The Secret River”, M J Hyland’s “Carry Me Down”, Hisham Matar’s “In the Country of Men” and St Aubyn’s “Edward’s Mother's Milk.”

Kiran paid a tribute to her Indian roots while accepting the prize: “I’m Indian and so I’m going to thank my parents.”

The novel, set in India, was written during trips to India. Kiran said: “ I went back to write the Indian bits in India, so it wasn’t entirely from a distance.” Kiran's mother, Anita Desai, was not at the awards dinner. The award-winning book is dedicated to her.

Kiran said: “To my mother, I owe a debt so profound and so great that this book feels as much hers as it does mine. It was written... in her wisdom and kindness, in cold winters in her house when I was in pieces. I really owe her this book so enormously. A minute isn’t enough to convey it."

Explaining her mother’s absence at the Guildhall, she said: “I think she was so terrified on my behalf that she retreated as far as she could. She gave me lots of advice and now she is without a phone and without a television in a village in India.

Until Tuesday night, the youngest woman was Arundhati Roy who won in 1997, aged 36, for “The God Of Small Things”. — IANS



I couldn’t have faced it if Kiran had lost: Anita Desai

New Delhi, October 11
Author Anita Desai, whose daughter won the coveted Man Booker prize on Wednesday for "The Inheritance Of Loss", says she stayed away from the prize venue because she couldn't have "faced it" if Kiran had lost.

"I am very happy to be in India on this day. In fact, I wish Kiran was here with me! In no other country is there so much congratulation and celebration," Anita Desai said.

Kiran, at 35, is also the youngest woman to have won the award.

"I was scared inside," admitted the elder Desai, 69, who herself had been nominated for the prize three times. "I could not have faced it if she had not won it. I could not have stood it if someone else had got it.

"I watched her work on this book for eight years and they were eight hard years. She has put in so much into this book. It is a complex book, so I was afraid that it may not be easily appreciated," said the author of "Fasting, Feasting", "IN Custody" and "Clear Light of Day" — all three works nominated for Booker.

What about Kiran not wearing a sari at the prize announcement event in London even though the mother had asked her to?

"That was just a joke really. Someone gave me a magnificent antique sari once and I thought it was the perfect place for her to wear it. But I think she didn't feel comfortable about it. She wore a black dress finally," said Anita.

Has the veteran author read any of the other Booker short-listed work this year?

"I have not read any other book in the long-list or short-list. I was sent excerpts from the final six books, that's all."

Kiran, who is expected to visit India during the winter months, had said earlier that her mother really understood her pain while she wrote "The Inheritance Of Loss".

Said the mother: "While you are writing a book no one knows what you are doing, no one gives you any encouragement.

"You have doubts over whether you are doing the right thing at all. But no one tells you and it is a lonely road. I understood what she was going through and I was trying to be a companion and not allow her to be disheartened."

And what were the celebrated daughter's first words after the win?

"She hasn't called me. I have not spoken to her yet," said Desai. "We are going to meet up on Saturday in New York. Then we will talk." — IANS



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