Ex-India Abroad journalist in N.Y. named judge for 2020 International Booker Prize

Jeet Thayil (Getty Images)

Jeet Thayil, a former India Abroad journalist in New York, who is also an award-winning author, has been named among the five-member panel of judges for the 2020 International Booker Prize, the world’s leading literary award for translated fiction, it was announced by the thebookerprizes.com last month.

Thayil, the author of "Narcopolis," his debut novel set in 1970s Old Bombay and winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award, will join his fellow judges to look for the best works of translated fiction, selected from entries published in the UK and Ireland between May 2019 and April 2020. Next year will be the fifth year of the evolved International Booker Prize.

Chaired by Ted Hodgkinson, Head of Literature and Spoken Word at Southbank Centre, the panel consists of comparative literature and translation specialist Lucie Campos; Booker International Prize-winning translator and writer Jennifer Croft; writer Valeria Luiselli and Man Booker Prize shortlisted writer and musician Jeet Thayil, it was announced July 11 as submissions for the prize opened.

“It's a great honor to chair the International Booker, a prize that recognizes literature as an art rooted in dialogue, enabled by ingenuity and precision, but also by the courage of authors and translators alike to carry stories across languages and cultures,” Hodgkinson said.

“Through these miraculous and at times conspiratorial affinities we enter lives beyond our own and renew our shared sense of humanity. It's a particular thrill to be in such stellar company, with polyglot authors, celebrated translators and champions of translated fiction joining me on what promises to be a remarkable reading odyssey.”

The “Booker Dozen” of 12 or 13 books will be announced in March 2020 and the shortlist of six books in April. The winner will be announced in May.

Thayil was born into a Syrian Christian family in Kerala in 1959. He worked as a journalist for 23 years in Bombay, Bangalore, Hong Kong and New York. In 2006 he began to write fiction.

His first novel, "Narcopolis," was awarded the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature and was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize. His five poetry collections include These Errors Are Correct, which won the Sahitya Akademi Award (India’s National Academy of Letters), and English, winner of a New York Foundation for the Arts award.

As a musician his collaborations include the noise quintet Still Dirty, the experimental trio HMT, and the opera Babur in London. His most recent novel is The Book of Chocolate Saints.

Thayil’s former colleagues at India Abroad expressed elation over his selection as a member of the five-member panel of judges for the most coveted literary prizes in the world.

The Indian winners of the Booker Prize include V.S. Naipaul, Salman Rushdie, Kiran Desai, Arundhati Roy and Aravind Adiga.

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