The shortlist of 12th Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize, a literary award constituted to acknowledge literature from the many countries of the South Asian sub-continent, was announced on Monday.
With five books, instead of its usual six, the shortlist this year includes two works of non- fiction and three fiction. Beside three books from India, the shortlist has a book each from Pakistan and Bangladesh, Arshia Sattar, author and co-curator of the prize, said in a statement.
"Our selected books speak of origins and futures, of satirical masculinities and the continuing vulnerability of women in our society, of vaulting ambitions and the sweetness of dreams.
"Never flinching from confronting ugly truths or recognising the gossamer thread of hope, they provide a vivid commentary on South Asia's social and political fissures, its unresolved anxieties and its contemporary concerns," the renowned translator said.
The shortlist includes "Goodbye, Freddie Mercury" by Pakistani author Nadia Akbar, "Babu Bangladesh" by Bangladeshi author Numair Atif Chowdhury, Roshan Ali's debut novel "Ib's Endless Search for Satisfaction", "No Nation for Women" by Priyanka Dubey, and Tony Joseph's "Early Indians".
Dubbing the shortlist as a "shoutout to spaces of resistance", Sattar said these books have become the "source of solidarity among people".
"As our democratic processes are brutally demolished and our voices of dissent are choked off, our public and private bookshelves can stand tall as spaces of resistance. Solidarities can still be created by the books that we write and read and share. This year's shortlist is a shoutout to those spaces and solidarities," she said.
While the Pakistani author's book gives voice to "the young and the restless of Lahore's social elite" trying to escape from the corruption in the region, "Babu Bangladesh" tells the story of a national superhero who has lived through both -- his country's bloody past and the threatening chaos of its imminent future.
Another fiction in the list, Roshan Ali's "Ib's Endless Search for Satisfaction" circles around an unremarkable boy who considers questions of love and death from a distinctly 21st century urban Indian perspective.
The two non-fiction works by journalists, "No Nation for Women" by Priyanka Dubey and "Early Indian" by Tony Joseph, bring forward stories of sexual violence against women in India and is an evidence-driven version of Indian history -- one that strongly contests the new version of India's past being created by the current political dispensation -- respectively.
Set up in 2008 in the memory of Shakti Bhatt, the prize honours debut authors from the South Asian subcontinent with Rs 2 lakh and a trophy.
Last year, the prize was awarded to Sujatha Gidla for her "Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family And The Making Of Modern India". This year the winner will be announced in November.
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