Jan 25 2013, 9:45am CST | by Luigi Lugmayr
Jaipur, Jan 25 — Novelist-poet Jeet Thayil, whose novel "Narcopolis" was nominated for the Man Booker Prize, became the first Indian to win the $50,000 DSC South Asian Literature Prize 2013 for his novel about Mumbai's dark underside and the forces that make the megapolis tick.
The winner was announced at the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival Friday evening in a short ceremony presided over by Sharmila Tagore and compered by Kabir Bedi.
The jury of Muneeza Shamsee, Rick Simonson, Suvani Singh and Eleanor O'Keefe, led by K. Satchidanandan, said Thayil was an example of fresh voices emerging from the region.
Thayil was vying with six writers that included Jamil Ahmad for "The Wandering Falcon", Tahmina Alam for "The Good Muslim", Amitav Ghosh for "River of Smoke", Mohammed Hanif for "Our Lady of Alice Bhatti", and Uday Prakash for "Walls of Delhi".
The jury had received 81 entries, including writers and translators across India, Australia, Britain, the US, Pakistan and Bangladesh, reflecting the importance of South Asia's rapidly expanding book market.
India is currently the world's third largest English market after the US and Britain. A BBC report says it is set to become the largest within the next 10 years.
An excited Thayil, born in Kerala and educated in Mumbai, said the DSC shortlist was "tremendously strong this year".
"I would like to dedicate the award to Jamil Ahmad wuth whom I have beome friends. The prize matters because it is an Indian prize," he said.
The book, published by Faber and Faber, set in the Bombay in its heydays of the 1970s, narates the tale of a young man who arrives in the city of tinsel dreams and is sucked into the hazy underbelly and the opium dens.
He meets a medley cast of characters - Dimple, the eunuch, Rashid, the opium den owner, and Mr Lee, a Chinese official. Each character has its own story to tell.
"'Narcopolis' mixes fantasy with reality to create a powerful story that deals with a lesser known aspect of life in a metropolis where episodes collpase into each other as in the tale of Vikaramditya telling an interminable tale about the less fortunate and the less visible human beings in the city," said Satchidanandan.
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