The 2020 longlist for The JCB Prize for Literature was announced this Tuesday on 1st September. The 10 novels feature writers from 9 states, writing in 5 languages. So, regardless of whether you’re a fiction buff or not, the time just couldn’t be right to pick your favourites from among this list. Each of these contemporary fictional novels cover a separate niche. Read on to find out about the JCB Prize and the 2020 longlisted books. Also, head over to Books On The Delhi Metro’s Instagram page to find out how you can win one of these longlisted novels.
“The longlisted books this year do bring out the distinctive voice of each character and tell tales that are imaginative and powerful. The 2020 longlist provides us with fresh insights into the contemporary world we live in even if some of them are set in historical times.”
– The Jury
About the Prize
Established in 2018, The JCB Prize celebrates Indian writing across a diverse range of languages. Each year, a distinguished work of fiction by an Indian author, either in English or translated in any other language, is presented this 25-lakh award. The global construction equipment manufacturing firm JCB funds this prize. Previously in 2018 and 2019, Jasmine Days by Benyamin and The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay have won this award, respectively. Tejasvini Niranjana, an author and professor of cultural studies, is heading this year’s jury. The shortlist of five will be announced on 25th September and the Awards Ceremony is set to take place on 7th November.
READ MORE ABOUT THE 2019 WINNER THE FAR FIELD HERE.
The 2020 JCB Prize Longlist
1. Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line (Deepa Anappara)
Nine-year-old Jai lives in a tin-roofed home at the end of the Purple Line. When a classmate goes missing, he decides to use his supposed crime-solving skills to solve the mystery. As the disappearances edge ever closer to home, the lives of Jai and his friends will never be the same again. Born in Kerala, Deepa Anappara has also won many awards for her reports on the impact poverty and religious violence have on children’s education in India.
2. In Search of Heer (Manjul Bajaj)
In Search of Heer is a lyrical retelling of one of the most beloved epics of the subcontinent. Written wisely and from multiple perspectives, Manjul Bajaj redefines the timeless tale of Heer and Ranjha, and in between redefines love as well. The author worked in the field of environment and rural development before she became a writer and has also written 4 more books.
3. Undertow (Jahnavi Barua)
Twenty-five years ago in Assam, Loya’s grandmother cast her mother out of the family home, while her grandfather watched silently. Loya now seeks answers, but in the process, she also ends up learning so much about love and life. Barua’s short fiction has been widely anthologized and her work is also a part of several university syllabi.
4. Chosen Spirits (Samit Basu)
Chosen Spirits is an anti-dystopian novel set in Delhi – an ever-transforming city in the late 2020s. When Joey impulsively rescues her childhood-friend Rudra, she sets in motion a chain of events leading to a fascinating plot. Best known for his fantasy and science-fiction work, Basu also co-wrote the 2019 Netflix film House Arrest.
5. These, Our Bodies, Possessed by Light (Dharini Bhaskar)
This is a remarkable debut novel about (un)sanctioned memory, uncommon love, and the claims of familial history. By entering Deeya’s life, Neil offers her a new identity separate from an affair and a tolerable marriage. Now, Deeya has to choose between upending her family’s history and building a narrative of her own. The author was the former editorial director of Simon and Schuster India. She was also selected for the Caravan’s Writers of India Festival, Paris.
6. Moustache (S. Hareesh)
Originally published in Malayalam as Meesha, Moustache highlights the social history of the Kuttanad region in Kerala. Vavachan is a Pulayan who gets to play a policeman with a huge moustache in a musical drama. But he becomes the subject of many legends when he goes against the traditions of his people and refuses to shave off his moustache. S. Hareesh is also the author of three short-story collections and two screenplays.
7. A Burning (Megha Majumdar)
A Burning covers the lives of three unforgettable characters, who aim for social mobility, in terms of class, power and fame, amidst a terrorist attack on a train. Consequently, it covers themes like corruption, justice and extremism. A Burning is Majumdar’s debut novel. She was born in Kolkata and attended college at Harvard and Hopkins University.
8. A Ballad of Remittent Fever (Ashoke Mukhopadhyay)
Set in the late 19th-20th century Calcutta, this is the story of the city’s most celebrated physicians – The Ghoshals – amidst several epidemics. “History has repeatedly told the world that such medical heroism is equated with white people but this narrative challenges that,” comments the jury. An MBA from Calcutta University, according to the author this book is ‘the outcome of 5-year labour of love.’
9. The Machine is Learning (Tanuj Solanki)
As the name suggests, this book takes a plunge into the world of Artificial Intelligence and narrates how technology should be handled with care. Saransh works at a life insurance company which is developing a secret AI project. This thus challenges Saransh’s conscience as the project has the potential to destroy the lives of many. The Caravan, Hindu Business Line, DNA, Out of Print, etc. have also published Solanki’s short fictions.
10. Prelude to a Riot (Annie Zaidi)
It revolves around the story of three generations of two families, one Hindu and the other Muslim, living in a small town while a spectre of religious intolerance haunts them. The book thus includes a diverse set of characters and an unusual narrative. As for the author, she is the recipient of the 2019 Nine Dots Prize and her work has also appeared in various anthologies and literary journals.
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