NEW DELHI: Thrust into the limelight after her international Booker Prize win, author Geetanjali Shree says the public gaze is a huge adjustment, but she knows it will fade over time so she can find his cherished “quiet space”.
Shree won the award for her novel “Ret Samadhi,” which was translated into English as “Tomb of Sand” by American translator Daisy Rockwell.
She is the first Indian author to win the International Booker Prize. “It’s not like a movie star or a cricketer that people will always chase me. It will settle down over time and I will find my quiet space. Either way, I will be happy. Yes, life has changed but you have to find the balance and get that space back to some degree. It’s important,” the famous Hindi author said on Tuesday night at an event to celebrate her honor.
When asked how she plans to cope with the pressure of immense expectations for her future books, Shree was candid in her response.
“I’ve never worried about my readership before or now. So no pressure.”
Life, the 65-year-old said, has changed with journalists around the world pursuing her for interviews and her circle of friends and supporters is growing. “I’ve been a very quiet person and suddenly being in the public eye is a huge adjustment for me. My circle of friends and supporters has expanded incredibly over the past few days. Old friends have resurfaced and new ones friends showed up. I met some very, very nice people during that time,” Shree said, addressing a packed auditorium at the India Habitat Center (IHC).
“So everyone likes the attention, and so do I, but getting too intrusive is when I start to worry. I think I’m learning to deal with it. Before that I was very polite, but now I can also be politely rude. I hope not to become rudely rude,” she said with a smile.
Set in northern India, “Tomb of Sand” is the story of 80-year-old Ma who insists on traveling to Pakistan, simultaneously confronting the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of partition and reassessing what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a woman and a feminist.
On his method of storytelling, often described as “difficult” by readers, Shree borrowed a phrase from prominent Hindi poet Ashok Vajpayee who was also in the audience.
“‘Sahitya koi samosa nahi hai muh mein daala aur gup kar liya (Literature is not a samosa that you put in your mouth and it is digested). Go back to it, try to understand it again, or not understanding it is not a big problem.”
“Literature is not about clarifying, it’s about confusing. And I think we should learn to appreciate that as well,” she explained. His other works include “Mai”, “Tirohit”, “Hamara Shahar Us Baras” and “Khali Jagah”.
Speaking about the unprecedented acclaim she received, Shree said it would be wrong to be considered hers alone and she was just lucky to be the chosen one.
“My ‘kriti’ (work of art) only grew because the land it was sown on was fertile. There are many other such kritis and it is time to turn our gaze to them” , she said.
Quoting Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez, Shree said winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982 opened up avenues for the then little-known South American writings and also for Latin American writings around the world.
“Soon people realized that there wasn’t a single Márquez and the place was full of people like him, and even better than him. of the so-called ‘wider world’,” she added.
The interaction was organized by production company Teamwork Arts and IHC Indian Language Festival ILF Samanvay.