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International Booker Shortlisted Author Geetanjali Shree

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In a historic moment, Geetanjali Shree became the first Indian author to get her work shortlisted for the International Booker Prize. The Hindi novel, Ret Samadhi has been translated into English as Tomb of Sand by Daisy Rockwell. Shree is no stranger to literary stardom. Her previous novels such as Mai and Khali Jagah have been translated into different languages as well. In an interview with News18, the 64-year-old talks about the importance of languages in a person’s consciousness and why she finds it abhorring when one is pitted against the other. Excerpts:

Congratulations on making it to the shortlist! This is a tremendous achievement. How important do you think this moment is when one thinks of Hindi post-colonial literature?

It is hugely important because in shedding light on one Hindi work, it also lights up the larger canvas of Hindi Literature. It indicates clearly that there is much lying here which is hitherto unknown and encourages the endeavour to explore these regions. Additionally it brings into wider purview a larger non-English South Asian scene and that is so exciting, so important.

You had mentioned in an interview about how a good translator is not merely translating your work but is creatively transposing it. How has your relationship been with the translated version, the translator herself and is there a place for enrichment of prose when it gets translated?

Yes, I stand by that – a translation is not a shadow of the base text, but a transcreated work. The translator is no good if her work does not enliven the translation in its new cultural and linguistic milieu. Daisy has done just that, or else so many, new readers, including those from the Booker world, would not have enjoyed the novel so much that it has got to be shortlisted.

My relationship with Daisy and her work has been of growing enrichment – once we found our rapport and trust with each other, we dialogued further and further and a fine honed text has been birthed.

Of course, the prose gets enriched in a good translation but don’t take that to mean that a poor text gets enriched – a rich text gets differently enriched.

English literature from India has been widely read. In a country as linguistically diverse as India, do we face a problem of excess? Does a common Indian let go of his/her interest in them and settle for the bare minimum?

No, why should we settle for the bare minimum? It is important to live our lineage and let many streams irrigate our culture. Multilingual multiculturalism is most enriching and exciting. There is endless wealth in pluralism. Only a narrow self and mind would want a shrunken monolingual existence.

Ret Samadhi has been translated by Daisy Rockwell into Tomb of Sand.

Can you tell us a bit about the writing process and how Tomb of Sand came into being?

It took me many years to complete it. It is not a straight single linear story, but, rather a whole world of diversity and unity of Nature and Human and even the Inanimate that breathes life into this work.

There is of course a central story in which many other stories find their way – starting with an old woman who seems to have no interest any more in living but who actually surprises all by reinventing herself and her life anew. The dynamic of her character so evolves that she begins to transgress borders of all kinds and once that begins there is no stopping her or the story!

India has always had a literary voice. Its literature has inspired the world through centuries. What do you make of the role of an Indian writer today? Is it still a guiding force?

Let’s be clear on this – it is not a case of India alone inspiring the world but one of reciprocal interaction between them. Good literature always inspires, but not in any immediate measurable way. It opens new rich spaces within us, it hones our ways of seeing, being and expressing, it makes us more sensitive human beings, it moves with hope and love and humanity.

Literature from India and the world has to be made more available to everyone.

Do you feel only in its indigenous languages does that writing wield utmost power?

One writes best in the language with which one is most at home. It need not always be the indigenous language. It can also be an acquired language.

Finally, what does the Booker mean to you?

It means big recognition but does not change my primary work which is to write in solitude with utmost commitment.

Read all the Latest News , Breaking News and IPL 2022 Live Updates here.


In a historic moment, Geetanjali Shree became the first Indian author to get her work shortlisted for the International Booker Prize. The Hindi novel, Ret Samadhi has been translated into English as Tomb of Sand by Daisy Rockwell. Shree is no stranger to literary stardom. Her previous novels such as Mai and Khali Jagah have been translated into different languages as well. In an interview with News18, the 64-year-old talks about the importance of languages in a person’s consciousness and why she finds it abhorring when one is pitted against the other. Excerpts:

Congratulations on making it to the shortlist! This is a tremendous achievement. How important do you think this moment is when one thinks of Hindi post-colonial literature?

It is hugely important because in shedding light on one Hindi work, it also lights up the larger canvas of Hindi Literature. It indicates clearly that there is much lying here which is hitherto unknown and encourages the endeavour to explore these regions. Additionally it brings into wider purview a larger non-English South Asian scene and that is so exciting, so important.

You had mentioned in an interview about how a good translator is not merely translating your work but is creatively transposing it. How has your relationship been with the translated version, the translator herself and is there a place for enrichment of prose when it gets translated?

Yes, I stand by that – a translation is not a shadow of the base text, but a transcreated work. The translator is no good if her work does not enliven the translation in its new cultural and linguistic milieu. Daisy has done just that, or else so many, new readers, including those from the Booker world, would not have enjoyed the novel so much that it has got to be shortlisted.

My relationship with Daisy and her work has been of growing enrichment – once we found our rapport and trust with each other, we dialogued further and further and a fine honed text has been birthed.

Of course, the prose gets enriched in a good translation but don’t take that to mean that a poor text gets enriched – a rich text gets differently enriched.

English literature from India has been widely read. In a country as linguistically diverse as India, do we face a problem of excess? Does a common Indian let go of his/her interest in them and settle for the bare minimum?

No, why should we settle for the bare minimum? It is important to live our lineage and let many streams irrigate our culture. Multilingual multiculturalism is most enriching and exciting. There is endless wealth in pluralism. Only a narrow self and mind would want a shrunken monolingual existence.

Ret Samadhi has been translated by Daisy Rockwell into Tomb of Sand.
Ret Samadhi has been translated by Daisy Rockwell into Tomb of Sand.

Can you tell us a bit about the writing process and how Tomb of Sand came into being?

It took me many years to complete it. It is not a straight single linear story, but, rather a whole world of diversity and unity of Nature and Human and even the Inanimate that breathes life into this work.

There is of course a central story in which many other stories find their way – starting with an old woman who seems to have no interest any more in living but who actually surprises all by reinventing herself and her life anew. The dynamic of her character so evolves that she begins to transgress borders of all kinds and once that begins there is no stopping her or the story!

India has always had a literary voice. Its literature has inspired the world through centuries. What do you make of the role of an Indian writer today? Is it still a guiding force?

Let’s be clear on this – it is not a case of India alone inspiring the world but one of reciprocal interaction between them. Good literature always inspires, but not in any immediate measurable way. It opens new rich spaces within us, it hones our ways of seeing, being and expressing, it makes us more sensitive human beings, it moves with hope and love and humanity.

Literature from India and the world has to be made more available to everyone.

Do you feel only in its indigenous languages does that writing wield utmost power?

One writes best in the language with which one is most at home. It need not always be the indigenous language. It can also be an acquired language.

Finally, what does the Booker mean to you?

It means big recognition but does not change my primary work which is to write in solitude with utmost commitment.

Read all the Latest News , Breaking News and IPL 2022 Live Updates here.

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