Sujit Saraf

Indian American writer Sujit Saraf’s book, “Harilal and Sons,” has been shortlisted for the 2018 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2018. (naatak.com photo)

Indian American writer and engineer Sujit Saraf is among six authors whose novels have been shortlisted for the $25,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2018.

Saraf has been nominated for his fourth book, “Harilal and Sons.” He debuted as an author in 1994 with the novel, “Limbo.” His 2007 book, “The Peacock Throne,” was shortlisted for the Encore Prize in London. His third novel, “The Confession of Sultana Daku,” is being made into a motion picture, starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

In “Harilal and Sons,” which is said to be inspired by his grandfather’s life, Saraf takes readers on an epic journey from Shekhavati in Rajasthan, to the Calcutta of the early twentieth century, to Bogra in East Bengal, and to a village in Bihar in newly independent India.

It follows the story of Harilal as he sets up Harilal & Sons, a shop selling jute, cotton, spices, rice, cigarettes and soap, that grows into a large enterprise. It is also the sweeping tale of his two wives and ever-burgeoning family of sons, daughters, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren — the two strands of family and business inextricably fused because a Marwari’s life is defined by what he ‘deals in.’ The novel ends in 1972, as 85-year-old Hari lies dying in the great mansion that he built but never actually lived in.

Saraf, who received an engineering degree from IIT Delhi and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, works in Palo Alto, Calif., where he conducts research on space missions and satellite control. He is also the founder and artistic director of Naatak, the premier Indian theater company in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Three Indian-origin authors who are contending for the much-coveted prize include Jayant Kaikini for “No Presents Please”; Manu Joseph for “Miss Laila Armed And Dangerous”; and Neel Mukherjee for “A State Of Freedom.”

Rounding out the list are Pakistani authors Mohsin Hamid and Kamila Shamsie, who have been nominated for their books, “Exit West” and “Home Fire,” respectively.

The shortlist of six novels was announced Nov. 14 by Rudrangshu Mukherjee, chair of the DSC Prize 2018 jury panel, at an event held at the London School of Economics & Political Science.

The work of these authors, the jury panel noted, “poignantly brings alive a wide spectrum of themes and emotions that are so relevant in contemporary South Asian life.”

Several acclaimed writers, including Arundhati Roy, Jeet Thayil, Anuradha Roy and Perumal Murugan, who were earlier longlisted for the prize among the 88 submissions from major English publishing markets in India, the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Australia, among others, failed to make the cut, according to IANS.

Now in its eighth year, the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature is one of the most prestigious international literary awards specifically focused on South Asian fiction writing.

The jury comprised of Mukherjee, writer-actor-activist Nandana Sen, poetry translator-screenwriter Claire Armitstead, theatre critic-arts/literary editor Tissa Jayatilaka and professor of English at BRAC University, Bangladesh, Firdous Azim.

The winner will be announced at a ceremony to be held at the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet in Kolkata, between Jan. 22 and 27, 2019.

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