Monday, November 28, 2011

The Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize for 2011...

...goes to Jamil Ahmad’s The Wandering Falcon. I was on the jury and though the decision was “unanimous” (in the sense that all three of us were satisfied with the final choice - we weren't jumping up and down and pulling each other's noses), it wasn’t at all easy arriving at it. To begin with, the shortlist was an especially strong one. With most literary-award shortlists I've seen, it has been possible for me to immediately identify one or two books that I wouldn't seriously consider for the prize. But that wasn’t the case here: by the time I had finished reading the last of the six books, I knew it would be painful to have to pick one of them as the winner (and that my negative feelings about competition in the arts would resurface at some point).

Part of the difficulty was that these books cover a variety of themes, styles and approaches to writing about a subject, from the assured, unshowy storytelling in The Wandering Falcon to the cleverly metafictional narrative of Chinaman. (And those are two books that at least fall together under the broad head “Fiction”. There were also three extremely good non-fiction titles in the list, all with different virtues.)

In short, it felt like a pity that such a range of books had to be pitted against each other – but such are the inevitable hazards of any award process and one must accept them. Hearty congratulations then to Jamil Ahmad who (at the age of 78) is probably among the oldest writers ever to win a First Book prize. And to anyone who hasn’t read the other five on the shortlist: you could do a lot worse than pick them all up.


  1. would make sure I read this one .. sounds interesting :)

    thanks for telling about it !

  2. Have read only the RD Burman book on the list and it was pretty amazing. Did you review it anywhere?

  3. it's a wonderful book. a must read for anyone interested in knowing about multi-culturalism.