By Harihar Swarup
Tamil feminist writer Ambai, Kannada biographer DS Nagabhushan, Telugu poet Coreti Venkanna and English author Namita Gokhale, among others, are this year’s winners of Sahitya Akademi Award. The Award was announced for literary works in 20 languages.
This year seven books of poetry, two novels, five short stories, two plays, one biography and autobiography, a book of criticism, and a poem were chosen for award. Awards in Gujarati, Maithili, and Urdu languages will be announced at a date later. The awardees will receive a cash prize of Rs 1,00,000.
The other winners are Mwdai Gahai (Bodo), Bratya Basu (Bengali), Daya Prakash Sinha (Hindi), Daya, Wali Muhammd Aseer, Kishtwari (Kashmiri), Chhabilal Upadhyaya (Nepali).
Talking about winning the prestigious award for her book– Things to Leave Behind – Gokhale says, “To be Sahitya Akademi awardee as an English writer, amidst those books in 22 languages, is a privilege. I believe, in the concept of many languages, one literature.”
Gokhale’s book is set during 1840-1912 in the Kumaon region. “It looks at the new fragile modernity that was emerging at that time. It looks at colonial history from the point of view of both the colonizers and of Kumaon—my home state. It has many themes but the basic story is about three generations, of stubborn Kumaon woman. There’s peculiar obstinacy that characterizes that mountain women”.
A lot of material for the book came from Gokhale’s previous work Mountain Echoes: Reminiscences of Kumaoni women, where the author explores that oral history of the Kumaon region through the memories of her grandmother and three great aunts. “It gave me an idea of how people lived especially the women of household. My great grandfather, B D Pandey, had written the first history of Kumaon, which was a credible source. Another source was the Himalayan Gazetteer, written by ET Arkinson”.
The Sahitya Akademi, India’s National Academy of Letters, is an organisation dedicated to the promotion of literature in the languages of India. Founded on 12 March 1954, it is supported by, though independent of, the Indian government. Its office is located in Rabindra Bhavan near Mandi House in Delhi.
The Sahitya Akademi organises national and regional workshops and seminars; provides research and travel grants to authors; publishes books and journals, including the Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature; and presents the annual Sahitya Akademi Award of INR. 100,000 in each of the 24 languages it supports, as well as the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship for lifetime achievement.
The Sahitya Akademi Library is one of the largest multi-lingual libraries in India, with a rich collection of books on literature and allied subjects.
It publishes two bimonthly literary journals: Indian Literature in English and Samkaleen Bharatiya Sahitya in Hindi. (IPA Service)