And the Booker goes to Kiran Desai for a novel about the ‘anxiety of being a foreigner’
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A magnificent novel of human breadth and wisdom. That was how the judges described the novel that won this year's Man Booker Prize for 2006: Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss.
In the country of her birth, Kiran Desai's name had been fluttering in the expectant air ever since she had made it to the Booker shortlist. Will she, won't she... As it happened, she did. Call it a hullabaloo in the literary orchard, or the inheritance of gain, but the Man Booker has an ineffable charm about it. It brings the usual salutations, of course, a 50,000-pound cheque and guaranteed increase in sales. And how Kiran Desai, at 35, is the youngest female writer to win the Man Booker; how she met the requirement of providing "a distinctive, original voice and audacious imagination" to the world of modern literature, and so on and so forth.
But the new winner of the Man Booker is also a heartening reminder that an India-on-the-10-percent-growth track is still capable of nudging the imagination of its children, resident and non.
The Inheritance of Loss may have taken a big bite out of Big Apple, with the innumerable worlds residing in its basements — "above the restaurant was French, but below in the kitchen it was Mexican and Indian" — but India resides at its centre. Funny, isn't it, how the three books from the subcontinent that went on to win the Commonwealth's highest literary award together seem to relate a continuing story" First, there was Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children — winner of the 1981 Booker — its chutneyfied prose riding on a sea of stories from a nation born at the midnight hour. Then came Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things (Booker, 1997) with its exploration of the cracks and rifts, of caste and of class, that the country inherited and carried uneasily within it. Now, in 2006, we have in Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss a globalised India, where past and future live in uneasy juxtaposition, where lives are being pulled and pushed into varied corners, in a world where migration is the iron law of life. A novel, which the author herself said, concerns with "the enormous anxiety of being a foreigner."
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