The JCB Prize for Literature announces its Longlist for the 5th year ; ; Song of the Soil by Chuden Kabimo, translated from the Nepali by Ajit Baral (Rachna Books, 2021) nominated

New Delhi : Now in its 5th year, the longlist is announced today for the 2022 JCB Prize for Literature.

The list of ten novels was selected by a panel of five judges: AS Panneerselvan, (Chair) journalist and editor, Amitabha Bagchi, author; Rakhee Balaram, author and academician; Dr. J Devika, translator, historian and academician; and Janice Pariat, author.

The longlist for 2022 is dominated by 6 translations. Amidst titles in Bengali and Malayalam, titles in Urdu, Hindi and Nepali have been featured in the longlist for the first time. A truly diverse representation of what Indian fiction has to offer, the 2022 longlist brings forth stories from Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Kalimpong, Punjab, Kolkata, Kerala and the heartland.

The longlist was chosen from a vast range of submissions by writers from sixteen states writing in eight languages including English, published between 1st August 2021 and 31st July 2022.

The JCB Prize for Literature is awarded each year to a distinguished work of fiction by an Indian writer. The jury will announce the shortlist of five titles in October.  The winner of the Rs 25-lakh JCB Prize for Literature will be announced on 19th November.  If the winning work is a translation, the translator will receive an additional Rs 10 lakh.  Each of the 5 shortlisted authors will receive Rs 1 lakh; if a shortlisted work is a translation, the translator will receive Rs 50,000.

The 2022 longlist is:

  • Rohzin by Rahman Abbas, translated from the Urdu by Sabika Abbas Naqvi (Vintage Books, 2022)
  • Imaan by Manoranjan Byapari, translated from the Bengali by Arunava Sinha (EKA, 2021)
  • Escaping the Land by Mamang Dai (Speaking Tiger, 2021)
  • Paradise of Food by Khalid Jawed, translated from the Urdu by Baran Farooqi (Juggernaut, 2022)
  • Song of the Soil by Chuden Kabimo, translated from the Nepali by Ajit Baral (Rachna Books, 2021)
  • Spirit Nights by Easterine Kire (Simon & Schuster, 2022)
  • Crimson Spring by Navtej Sarna (Aleph Book Company, 2022)
  • The Odd Book of Baby Names by Anees Salim (Penguin Hamish Hamilton, 2021)
  • Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, translated from the Hindi by Daisy Rockwell (Penguin Random House India, 2022)
  • Valli by Sheela Tomy, translated from the Malayalam by Jayasree Kalathil (Harper Perennial, 2022)

Commenting on the longlist for 2022 and the overall reading experience,  AS Panneerselvan, Chair of the jury observed,

“This year’s deliberation to select the novels for the JCB prize for the 2022-long list was an enriching experience. It was a rich collection, the translations from different languages showed how writers were pushing the linguistic and creative boundaries to document our lives. These ten novels are in a sense a metaphor of contemporary India, where each language is permitted to shine; its intrinsic beauty is not subsumed by the other.”

Now in its 5th year, the JCB Prize for Literature has had four winners so far, the 2018 Prize was awarded to Benyamin for his Jasmine Days, translated from the Malayalam by Shahnaz Habib. In 2019 the Prize went to Madhuri Vijay for The Far Field. In 2020 the Prize was awarded to S. Hareesh for his Moustache translated by Jayasree Kalathil from the Malayalam, followed by M. Mukundan’s Delhi: A Soliloquy translated by Fathima E.V. and Nandakumar K. in 2021.

Talking about the journey of the JCB Prize for Literature and the support it has had from the industry, Mita Kapur, Literary Director, said:

“The JCB Prize is chuffed with pride to announce a Longlist of ten books that are bracing, vigorous, transformative, experimental in voice and story. Elemental to storytelling, each book takes soaring flights of imagination even as it is strongly rooted in India. The Prize enters its fifth year, marking 50 Longlisted titles that catch the pulse of our literary traditions. This journey, of course, would be incomplete without the publishers who bring these stories to light, the bookstores, online and offline, that give them a platform and the readers who open themselves to the new worlds these books create.”


Rahman Abbas: Rohzin

With a dramatic love story at the heart of it, this novel is also the story of a young boy moving to a big city. It presents parts of Mumbai, like Mohammad Ali Road, that are rarely seen in English fiction. The real and the fantastical, the contemporary and the ancient, mix seamlessly while the grand themes of Hindi cinema play out in the background.

 Manoranjan Byapari: Imaan 

Imaan is a completely novel iteration of the humanist tradition of Bengali literature. It presents a vivid portrait of people from the periphery but is neither voyeuristic nor patronising. Each character has agency no matter how circumscribed their life may be. A raw, deeply authentic and honest story which is also well-paced, poignant and eloquent.

Mamang Dai: Escaping the Land

Breathtakingly lyrical and poetic, Escaping the Land is a memorable account of a life lived on the North-eastern frontier of India. Amidst the varieties of masculinity portrayed in fiction the protagonist in this novel is a rare one-that of a man who fails and accepts his failure. There is an underlying intelligence that runs through the book, becoming more vivid as the narrative progresses.

Khalid Jawed: Paradise of Food 

Paradise of Food is a brutal and mesmerizing account of the contemporary body, home and nation told through the food and kitchen. In a world consumed by hyper-consumerism, the book provides a bracing counter-narrative making it an important piece of work. The incredibly skilful translation highlights the poetry and music of the original text.

Chuden Kabimo: Song of the Soil

Song of the Soil is a shining example of how one can write about a violent incident without recreating the violence. The author blends bildungsroman with a conflict story with great dexterity, bringing out new aspects of both forms. This book is able to make poetry out of brutal situations, but does so with honesty, humour, and gentleness.

Easterine Kire: Spirit Nights 

Spirit Nights posits a different view of the world where the human is just another creature struggling within the vastness of creation. Simple yet evocative, full of deep insights and important teachings, this grounded, lyrical novel  is a powerful celebration of oral storytelling traditions.

Navtej Sarna: Crimson Spring

A solidly crafted work of historical fiction, Crimson Spring not only talks about the historical moment of turbulence and terror triggered by the Jallianwala Bagh massacre but also vividly brings to life rural Punjab at the turn of the century.

Anees Salim: The Odd Book of Baby Names

Dealing with a multiplicity of perspectives, the narrative moves from one to the other with ease. A smooth and enjoyable read, with a smattering of dry humor, yet filled with tenderness and poignancy. The book proves it is possible to produce a criticism of the decaying feudal order, presided over by Muslim authorities without resorting to any othering devices

Geetanjali Shree: Tomb of Sand

Wild and unruly, Tomb of Sand challenges our notions of what a novel should be. The impression of several novels within one give it a carnivalesque atmosphere. This novel is witty and irreverent yet filled with tenderness and psychological insight.

 Sheela Tomy: Valli

Valli is a beautifully written work that transports us into another time and place. It presents a world gone by in which the natural world is an extension of the human world. The prose has many textures, with letters and quotes from scriptures, making for a deeply satisfying reading.

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