Bengali author Amar Mitra has been conferred the prestigious 2022 O. Henry Prize for Short Fiction.
A list of 20 authors, who have been awarded the coveted prize, was announced on Monday.
Mitra’s story, The Old Man of Kusumpur, originally written in Bengali with the title Gaonburo, will appear in the annual prize anthology, The Best Short Stories 2022: The O. Henry Prize Winners.
“I was just 26 years old when I wrote the story in 1977. In a few more years, the story will be 50 years old. I find it encouraging that people still enjoy it and find it relevant. After reading the story, author Mahasweta Devi had asked me to meet her. Over the years, it has received much adulation. I call it a mythical story. I am definitely proud that I have been able to take India’s name and the Bengali language onto a global stage,” said Mitra.
The English translation of the story by Anish Gupta, a senior journalist, appeared in the web magazine, The Common, last year.
“I spent a considerable amount of time in my childhood in districts like Bankura and Purulia. I could easily relate to the Adivasi backdrop in which the story is written. Every language and culture has some nuanced specificity. While translating, one has to be very careful about that, and I was. Overall, I relished translating the story,” said Gupta.
Started in 1919 to honour the memory of the acclaimed writer, O. Henry, the prize is the oldest major award for short fiction in America.
Earlier the prize was reserved for only those writing in English. Recently, the criteria for the prize have been modernised to include translated stories as well.
This year, among the 20 awarded stories, half are translations from Bengali, Greek, Hebrew, Norwegian, Polish, Russian and Spanish.
With this prize, Mitra joins a long list of legendary authors who also won the O.Henry prize, including William Faulkner, Saul Bellow and Alice Munro.