A 29-year-old from Sri Lanka who is still completing his Phd at Columbia University has won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2017, for his debut novel, The Story of a Brief Marriage.
Anuk Arudpragasam received the $25,000 (around Rs 16.2 lakh) prize at Dhaka Lit Fest on November 18. This was the seventh edition of the prize that looks at works of fiction from across the world but with a South Asian connect.
The Story of a Brief Marriage, published by Fourth Estate (Rs 499), unfolds over a single day and night, taking the reader into the very unusual marriage of Dinesh and Ganga in the backdrop of the continuing war in Sri Lanka. Dinesh has become immune to the horrors of the war when one day Ganga’s father approaches him to marry his daughter, in the hope that victorious soldiers would be less inclined to harm a married woman.
Arudpragasam is being hailed as one of the literary discoveries of the year, with The New York Times calling his book “a brave debut”.
“In language that is often poetic, he describes a single day and night in the life of a refugee fleeing both the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelem and government forces”, says the NYT review.
Across the pond, The Guardian feels the book is “horribly timely”, bringing to mind “the images of stunned, bloodied children now coming out of Syria and other war zones”.
This is also how DSC Prize co-founder Surina Narula described the book (which was then among a shortlist of five, including Anjali Joseph’s The Living, Aravind Adiga’s Selection Day, Karan Mahajan’s The Association of Small Bombs and Stephen Alter’s In the Jungles of the Night) when t2 met her in New Delhi last month, saying the searing story reminded her of the child soldiers she had met in Sierra Leone in her work with children’s charities.