Malayalam writer S Hareesh won the ₹25 lakh JCB Prize for Literature 2020 for his first novel Moustache, translated by Jayasree Kalathil. The JCB Prize for Literature is India's richest literary prize. Apart from the ₹25 lakh cash prize to the winner, an additional ₹10 lakh will be given to the translator.
Popular with Malayalam readers for his experimental prose, Moustache, Hareesh's first novel in translation, by HarperCollins India. It was critically acclaimed on its release earlier this year. In an essay written exclusively for Mint Lounge, Hareesh has written at length about the well-spring of his writing and the political act that it can be.
The JCB Prize for Literature 2020 shortlist included three debut novels among the titles to make it to the final five.
Deepa Anappara's internationally acclaimed first novel, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, which is being translated into more than 20 languages worldwide, led the pickings, followed by Dharini Bhaskar's These, Our Bodies, Possessed by Light and Malayalam writer S. Hareesh's Moustache (translated into English by Jayasree Kalathil).
The other two titles in the shortlist were Samit Basu's dystopian fiction Chosen Spirits and Annie Zaidi's Prelude to a Riot, a short and powerful novel about the fragile state of India's social and political life.
Each of the five shortlisted authors will receive Rs1 lakh. In case a shortlisted work happens to be in translation, the translator will receive an additional Rs50,000.
The previous winners of the prize include debut writer Madhuri Vijay for her novel The Far Field (2019) and Malayalam writer Benyamin and his translator Shahnaz Habib for Jasmine Days (2018).