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Inside the JCB Prize for Literature, India's richest literary award

March 12, 2018 12:22 IST

With an award amount of ₹25 lakh, this new prize aims to discover and celebrate distinguished works of fiction by Indian writers and break the barriers separating literature in different Indian languages.


Illustration: Dominic Xavier/

A new literary prize, billed as the country's richest with an award amount of ₹25 lakh, has been announced with an aim to discover and celebrate distinguished works of fiction by Indian writers and also to break the barriers separating literature in different Indian languages.

'By recognising the full range of India's literary traditions, the JCB Prize for Literature hopes to encourage future translations (both into English and between Indian languages) and therefore open up a truly Indian literature to readers,' a statement read.

The prize, funded by earthmoving and construction equipment manufacturer JCB India Ltd, and administered by the JCB Literature Foundation, is open for entries until May 31.

Publishers have entry quotas for works in English, and separately, for works translated into English from any other language. If the winning book is translated, the translator will be awarded Rs 5 lakh.

A longlist will be selected in September, a shortlist in October and the winner will be announced in November.


Award-winning novelist and essayist Rana Dasgupta has been roped in as literary director of the JCB Prize for Literature.

Each year, the literary director will appoint a jury. 

This year's jury consists of award-winning director Deepa Mehta (chair); founder of the Murty Classical Library of India, Rohan Murty; Yale University astrophysicist and writer Priyamvada Natarajan; novelist Vivek Shanbhag and author and translator Arshia Sattar.

Books selected by the jury will be promoted in a visionary publicity campaign aimed not only at gaining many more readers for these important works, but also at raising the prestige and visibility of great literature itself.

All shortlisted authors will win Rs 1 lakh each.

Talking about the prize, JCB chairman Lord Bamford says, "As JCB approaches an important milestone of 40 years of manufacturing in India, there is no better time to launch the JCB Prize for Literature. I hope this prize will encourage more and more people to read and also be of benefit to writers and publishers in this extraordinary country."

According to Dasgupta, "In a multilingual country like India, where there are many distinct literary traditions, no one can say they know 'Indian literature' if they read only books written in their own language.

"With this prize we hope to stimulate far more translation between Indian languages, and so to give people a far deeper sense of what other people are talking and thinking about in the country.

Dasgupta will be supported by an advisory council of the JCB Literature Foundation, which is chaired by former chief mentor of the Confederation of Indian Industry Tarun Das, and has members like author Amitav Ghosh, Delhi University professor Harish Trivedi and art historian and environmentalist Pheroza Godrej.

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