It’s only been about 12 hours since her Booker Prize win, but Geetanjali Shree’s novel Tomb of Sand (in Hindi Ret Samadhi) is already topping the bestseller lists in India.
Shree and Daisy Rockwell, who translated the Shree’s novel from its original Hindi, won the 2022 International Booker Prize today (May 27). The author and translator will split the £50,000 ($63,000 or 48.95 crore rupees) prize money evenly. It is the first work in any Indian language to win this award, given to books translated into English. It is also the first from South Asia (though several South Asian authors have won the Booker Prize, the corollary for books originally written in English).
As of 3pm local time today, Shree’s Ret Samadhi (in Hindi) was at the top of Amazon India’s bestseller list, while Tomb of Sand (in English), published by Tilted Axis, was second. The award puts this novel in the spotlight, both in Indian and global markets, despite receiving little attention from reviewers before the Booker nomination.
On Amazon India, the two books are also top sellers in the Indian writing category.
Tomb of Sand narrates the story of an 80-year-old woman who, after losing her husband, decides to visit Pakistan to confront the unresolved trauma of the India-Pakistan partition.
While the novel is yet to be published in the US, translator Frank Wynne, who chaired the Booker jury, expects sales in the UK to shoot up quickly. “I would be gobsmacked if it didn’t increase its sales by more than 1,000% in the next week,” he told the Associated Press.
Born in Mainpuri in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Shree studied at Lady Shri Ram College and Jawaharlal Nehru University. She felt a tug towards Hindi literature, ultimately earning her PhD in literature and history.
Her first book was her PhD thesis, which focused on Hindi writer Munshi Premchand and his role in the formation of the nationalist intelligentsia of the 20th century. She told Outlook Magazine that this book “…was my first full-fledged foray into the Hindi world, and no doubt allowed me to complete the transition from hobnobbing with Hindi to immersing into it.”
Shree’s first literary debut was in 1991 with a collection of short stories titled Anugoonj.
During her acceptance speech at the Booker ceremony in London, she spoke of the “melancholy satisfaction” in the award going to a work like Tomb of Sand. “Ret Samadhi/Tomb of Sand is an elegy for the world we inhabit, a lasting energy that retains hope in the face of impending doom,” she said. “The Booker will surely take it to many more people than it would have reached otherwise, that should do the book no harm.”
Shree, now 64 years old, lives in New Delhi.