Hindi Novel Tomb of Sand Wins Booker Prize

Tomb of Sand, written by Geetanjali Shree and translated from Hindi by Daisy Rockwell, is the winner of the 2022 International Booker Prize. The £50,000 prize will be split between Geetanjali Shree and Daisy Rockwell, giving the author and translator equal recognition.

Originally published in Hindi in 2018, Tomb of Sand was awarded one of English PEN’s coveted translation awards, which encourages UK publishers to acquire more books from other languages by helping them to meet the costs of translating new works into English. It was published in English by Tilted Axis Press in August 2021.

Tomb of Sand is the first book in any Indian language to win The International Booker Prize, and the first novel translated from Hindi to be recognised by the award. The author of three novels and several story collections, Geetanjali Shree has been translated into English, French, German, Serbian, and Korean. She was born in Mainpuri, India, in 1957.

This is the first of her books to be published in the UK. She has received and been shortlisted for a number of awards and fellowships, and lives in New Delhi. Daisy Rockwell is a painter, writer and translator living in Vermont, US. She was born in 1969 in Massachusetts.


She has translated a number of classic works of Hindi and Urdu literature, including Upendranath Ashk’s Falling Walls, Bhisham Sahni’s Tamas, and Khadija Mastur’s The Women’s Courtyard. Her 2019 translation of Krishna Sobti’s A Gujarat Here, a Gujarat There was awarded the Modern Language Association’s Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Translation Prize.

Tomb of Sand is set in northern India, and follows an 80-year-old woman who slips into a deep depression at the death of her husband, then resurfaces to gain a new lease on life. Her determination to fly in the face of convention – including striking up a friendship with a hijra person – confuses her bohemian daughter, who is used to thinking of herself as the more ‘modern’ of the two. To her family’s consternation, Ma insists on travelling to Pakistan, simultaneously confronting the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of Partition, and revaluating what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a woman, a feminist. Rather than respond to tragedy with seriousness, Geetanjali Shree’s playful tone and exuberant wordplay results in a book that is engaging, funny, and utterly original, at the same time as being an urgent and timely protest against the destructive impact of borders and boundaries, whether between religions, countries, or genders. Tomb of Sand was chosen from a shortlist of six books during a lengthy and rigorous judging process, by a panel of five judges, chaired by translator, Frank Wynne.

The panel also included author and academic, Merve Emre; writer and lawyer, Petina Gappah; writer, comedian and TV, radio and podcast presenter, Viv Groskop; and translator and author, Jeremy Tiang. This is the first time a translator has chaired the panel. Frank Wynne, chair of the judges, says: “This has been an exceptionally strong shortlist, and it was gradually, regretfully, that we winnowed these six down to one after a long and impassioned debate.

Ultimately, we were captivated by the power, the poignancy and the playfulness of “Tomb of Sand”, Geetanjali Shree’s polyphonic novel of identity and belonging, in Daisy Rockwell’s exuberant, coruscating translation. This is a luminous novel of India and partition, but one whose spellbinding brio and fierce compassion weaves youth and age, male and female, family and nation into a kaleidoscopic whole.” Geetanjali Shree and Daisy Rockwell will be appearing at Hay Festival on 29 May.

In their first public event since the announcement, the pair will be in conversation with Viv Groskop. More information is available on Hay Festival’s website. The International Booker Prize is awarded every year for a single book that is translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. It aims to encourage more publishing and reading of quality fiction from all over the world and to promote the work of translators. Both novels and short-story collections are eligible.

The contribution of author and translator is given equal recognition, with the £50,000 prize split between them. In addition, for the first time in 2022, the shortlisted authors and translators each received £2,500, increased from £1,000 in previous years – bringing the total value of the prize to £80,000. This year the judges considered 135 books, with a record number of submissions received. Together, the two Booker Prizes reward the best fiction from around the globe that is published in English in the UK and Ireland.

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