New Delhi: Fiction, while mirroring the society and times we live in, serves as a compass pointing to directions we might wish to go. The JCB Prize for Literature, which went to Perumal Murugan’s ‘Fire Bird’, rewards this phenomenon of impactful storytelling.
Setting the tone for the evening, the prize ceremony began with a performance by Fouzia Dastango of ‘Dastaan-e-Attila’, conceptualised from R.K. Narayan’s evergreen classic ‘Malgudi Days’. The narration brought out the grey shades of a story and how it is told.
The Rs 25-lakh award, now in its sixth edition, was announced in New Delhi on Sunday evening. ‘Fire Bird’ (Penguin Random House India) has been translated from the Tamil original by Janani Kannan. The translator received an additional sum of Rs 10 lakh.
Both the writer and translator could not be present at the ceremony to receive the award.
Originally titled ‘Aalandapatchi’, ‘Fire Bird’ is a thought-provoking exploration of the human desire for stability in an ever-changing world. Perumal Murugan draws from his personal experiences of displacement and explores the fragility of our fundamental attraction to permanence and the ultimately futile efforts to attain it.
The author, in his video message upon receiving this award, expressed his hope that the novel emotionally connects with displaced families.
A scholar and literary chronicler who writes in Tamil, Murugan has authored 12 novels, six collections of short stories, six anthologies of poetry, and a number of non-fiction books. Ten of his novels have been translated into English.
Janani Kannan is a US-based architect, translator and singer. She has also translated ‘Rising Heat’, Murugan’s first novel.
This prestigious literary award was announced virtually by Lord Bamford, Chairman of JCB Group. The trophy, titled ‘Mirror Melting’, is a sculpture by Delhi-based artists Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra, and was awarded by Deepak Shetty, CEO and Managing Director, JCB India Limited, to Sundaram Kannan and Manasi Subramaniam, the Tamil publisher of the original and editor of the English translation, respectively.