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French honour for city girl

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Sudeshna Banerjee   |   Published 03.01.15, 12:00 AM

Shumona Sinha, a French author of Bengali origin, has received the Prix du Rayonnement de la Langue et de la Littérature Françaises from the French Academy, a venerable institution that dates back to 1635. She is one of four recipients of the silver medal this year, chosen for dissemination of the language and literature.

Born in 1973 in Calcutta, Shumona moved to Paris in 2001 and did an MPhil in French language and literature at Sorbonne University. She obtained a post-masters degree in contemporary literature and co-authored several anthologies of French and Bengali poetry with the famous French poet Lionel Ray, to whom she was married for a while. The two had travelled to Calcutta when he was a guest at the Book Fair in 2005.

Poet Subodh Sarkar recalled meeting Shumona in Paris in 2006 when she and Ray read out his poems she had translated from Bengali. 'It is a great achievement how a city girl learnt the foreign language, travelled to France and made her place writing in their language in the cultural landscape of Paris, which is difficult to penetrate. She has fought a tough battle. I am proud of her,' he told Metro.

Her first novel Fenêtre sur l'abîme(Window over the abyss), published in 2008, is semi-autobiographical. Some of her work, like her second novel Assommons les pauvres! (Knock out the poors!) has been controversial. It won the prize, Prix Valery-Larbaud. In January 2014, her third novel Calcutta was published in French.

'I have never written anything in English. Whatever I have written I have written in French. The very prestigious French Academy award is not only an honour but also a huge responsibility,' Sinha told PTI.

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