Karnad’s ‘Indian Story’ gets him Windham-Campbell Prize in UK
- Raghu Karnad is the second Indian to receive the prestigious Windham-Campbell Prize
- Raghu Karnad is one of the eight winners chosen across four categories—fiction, non-fiction, drama and poetry—this year
Bengaluru: Journalist and writer Raghu Karnad won the $165,000 Windham-Campbell Prize in the non-fiction category for his debut book, The Farthest Field: An Indian Story Of The Second World War. The announcement was made early Thursday (IST) in a ceremony in London. In terms of prize money, it is one of the richest literary awards in the world.
Karnad is the second Indian to receive the prestigious prize, since Jerry Pinto won it for his novel, Em And The Big Hoom, in 2016. Karnad is one of the eight winners chosen across four categories—fiction, non-fiction, drama and poetry—this year. American writer Rebecca Solnit is the other awardee in the non-fiction category for the diverse body of work she has produced over her career.
Administered by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University in the US, the Windham-Campbell Prize was established in 2013 with a generous gift from writer Donald Windham in memory of his partner of 40 years, Sandy Campbell.
“Even though we are based at Yale, this is an international prize, and we want to celebrate this in the heart of one of the great multicultural cities of the world," Michael Kelleher, director of the prize, said about the decision to announce it from London during the week of the London Book Fair.
Instead of a submission process, the Windham-Campbell prize solicits nominations from experts from across the world. Finally, an anonymous panel of juries selects two winners in each category--one writer for a body of work spanning their career and the other for showing early promise.
“While it’s still hard for me to believe I have won this prize, I am excited that an unlikely and obscure slice of history, which might seem remote to readers in the US, has found resonance there," Karnad said to Mint.
“The Windham-Campbell Prize does not put authors into a gladiatorial situation by placing them in a shortlist," Pinto added. Unlike a grant, the prize simply enables writers to work without any pressure. “It allows you the time to write," he said.
Karnad, who is bureau chief and editor-at-large of the independent news portal Wire.in, won the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar in 2016 for The Farthest Field. Published by HarperCollins India (HCI), the book follows the intertwined lives of five people (one of whom was Karnad’s grandfather) during World War II. Based on fragmented evidence—culled from oral sources, diaries, letters and archival research—Karnad creates a riveting narrative, executed with literary flair.
“I realised when I started reading the manuscript how little I knew about the period Raghu was writing about because everything I had read until then was from a non-Indian perspective," says Karthika V.K., who edited the book when she was publisher of HCI and is currently publisher at Amazon-Westland.
“Raghu’s is one of the most refreshing new voices in Indian non-fiction and this award is very well-deserved," added Ananth Padmanabhan, chief executive officer of HCI.