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Books

Roll of honour: The 11th The Economist Crossword Awards 2012 were revealed on October 18, two days after the Man Booker Prize was announced. And while the Booker panel may have gone with the tried ’’ tested Hilary Mantel, The Economist Crossword Awards winners’ list packs in quite a few surprises and new names.

The prize for fiction went to Anuradha Roy for The Folded Earth [Hachette India, Rs 495], trumping biggies like Amitav Ghosh’s River of Smoke, Jeet Thayil’s Narcopolis and Rahul Bhattacharya’s The Sly Company of People Who Care, among others. Set in Ranikhet, The Folded Earth tells the tale of a young woman making a new life in the hills after losing her husband. Desperate to deal with her loss, Maya tries to engage herself in the local community. Soon, she finds herself battling a powerful politician to protect her new home and its people, who have now become her people. Anuradha, an editor with a publishing house, had earned plaudits for her literary prowess in her first novel, An Atlas of Impossible Longing. The Folded Earth has been praised for its elegant prose, wit and the tender love story at its core.

In the non-fiction category, journalist Aman Sethi’s chronicle of labourers in New Delhi in A Free Man [Random House India, Rs 399] has won the top honour, beating His Majesty’s Opponent: Subhas Chandra Bose and India’s Struggle against Empire by Sugata Bose, Tinderbox by M.J. Akbar and Taj Mahal Foxtrot by Naresh Fernandes.

The Indian translation award went to writer Anita Agnihotri and translator Arunava Sinha for the short story collection Seventeen [Zubaan Books, Rs 295], and author Narayan and translator Catherine Thankamma for Kocharethi: The Araya Woman [Oxford University Press, Rs 1,065], a novel set amid Kerala’s Malayarayar tribe.

The popular award packed in an even bigger surprise. Given that the list included the, er, baap of popular writers, Chetan Bhagat (Revolution 2020), readers voted in favour of Ravi Subramanian’s The Incredible Banker [Rupa, Rs 250], which is Book 3 in his banking trilogy, proving yet again that content is king. This category also included Rujuta Diwekar (Women & the Weight Loss Tamasha) as well as Amitav Ghosh (River of Smoke).

The judges had already announced that there would be no award for children’s writing this year because they felt the entries lacked the “quality of timelessness”.