Chowringhee shortlisted for The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2010

My copy of Sankar’s Chowringhee was bought in Calcutta airport a couple of years ago. I picked it up not because I knew anything about it but because I was looking for a Bengali novel in English and it was visibly available.

I read the book on the flight back…and I finished it later. It’s a complex tale of various characters and emotions set in a hotel, told through the eyes of a hotel clerk. While I enjoyed the book and would say it’s good, I would not attempt a review. It’s a complex book, as I already said, and I had read it only once. A braver soul reviewed the book in Hindu in 2007 here.

I had read somewhere that this book is generally compared to Arthur Hailey’s The Hotel. I haven’t read The Hotel, so can’t say any thing more on that. As an aside, while Hailey fans talk about Money Changers and Airport, I personally think his Detective is a very good piece of crime fiction.

Any way, chowringhee was written in 1962 and was translated in to English in 2007. It has been nominated for The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for 2010 – the first time that an Indian work has accomplished the feat. “Results“ are expected on May 13th. What struck me most was this line from the article in The Hindu  :

Asked why the English translation came more than 40 years after it was first written, the author candidly remarked, “I suppose it was my middle class Bengali arrogance — why should I take my work to the world, the world should come to me.”

I love straight talk, especially the self-deprecating kind. I also love it when one of the books I have read and appreciated gets recognized. For your information, I had read Slumdog Millionaire in its original avatar as ‘Q&A’…I am a discerning reader, you know! By the way, Vikas Swarup’s next book, The Six Suspects, plain sucks!


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