Vinod Shukla bags first Mathrubhumi Book of the Year award

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 2 (PTI) Noted Hindi poet-novelist and Sahitya Akademi honouree Vinod Kumar Shukla has bagged the inaugural Mathrubhumi Book of the Year award for his translated book 'Blue Is Like Blue'.

The stories in 'Blue Is Like Blue', translated into English by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra and Sara Rai, deal with common people and their daily struggles.

The 83-year-old Shukla, who is regarded the finest living writer in Hindi, has been quietly forging his own idiosyncratic path away from the public gaze in Raipur in Chhattisgarh.

His book, published under HarperCollins India’s translations imprint Harper Perennial, beat “Ib’s Endless Search for Satisfaction” (Roshan Ali); “The City and the Sea” (Raj Kamal Jha); “A Secret History of Compassion” (Paul Zachariah); “The Far Field” (Madhuri Vijay); “The Scent of God” (Saikat Majumdar) and “There is Gunpowder in the Air” (Manoranjan Byapari).

The award, given to the best fictional work released in the previous year, carries a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh, a plaque designed by Riyas Komu and a certificate.

This year’s jury comprised Shashi Tharoor, Chandrashekhara Kambara and Sumana Roy.

The award was presented at the Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters 2020 which concluded here on Sunday.

This is the second award for this book, the previous being the Atta Galatta Bangalore Literature Festival Book Prize 2019 for best fiction.

The characters in these stories live in rented accommodation, often in single rooms, where one electric bulb does for light. When the light dims because of low voltage, it is like air escaping from a punctured bicycle tube. There's a nail to hang clothes from and a wall-to-wall string for the washing.

When the clothes are dry, the character places the carefully folded shirt under a pillow and lies down to sleep. Money is a concern, but the bazaar is the place to go and spend time in, especially if the character has nothing to buy.

The fear that you may be overcharged accompanies every transaction, but joy is not entirely absent.

'Blue Is Like Blue' also includes Shukla's memoir 'Old Veranda', which sheds light on the childhood and influences of this famously reclusive writer and has this unforgettable scene - a bus bound for Rajnandgaon, the city of his birth, travelling 'through the air at great speed'.

According to the translators, Shukla is a frugal storyteller; he can make, and make do, with very little.

“By being perhaps India’s most unglamorous writer, the writer in rubber chappals who makes his home in Raipur where a flock of ducks looks like a duck, Vinod Kumar Shukla is glamorous in a different way,” they say.

“He turns the world’s attention away from himself to his writing, which is as down to earth as it is magical and which has now, with the Mathrubhumi Book of the Year Award, been given national recognition,” they add.

Speaking on the success of the book, Udayan Mitra, Publisher (Literary) at HarperCollins India, said, ‘Vinod Kumar Shukla is one of the great writers of our time and I hope that this award will encourage many new readers to pick up a copy of ‘Blue Is Like Blue’, and discover the author’s unique world, and his inimitable way with words.” Shukla's first collection of poems, the 20-page 'Lagbhag Jai Hind', was published in 1971, followed by 'Vah Aadmi Chala Gaya Naya Garam Coat Pehankar Vichar Ki Tarah' in 1981.

His first novel, 'Naukar Ki Kameez', was published in 1979 and made into a film by Mani Kaul. In 1999, Shukla received the Sahitya Akademi Award for his novel 'Deewar Mein Ek Khidki Rehti Thi'. PTI ZMN SHD SHD