Partition was never complete, border was created politically, says Booker Prize winner Geetanjali Shree

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What goes into writing a book, especially a novel such as Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree? Does writing happen in a straight line? Is it planned, inorganic? Does the writer follow a structure? Readers got a chance to get these questions answered by Geetanjali Shree at the Khushwant Singh LitFest held for three days at the Kasauli Club.

Geetanjali Shree is the author of Tomb of Sand, the book which won the 2022 International Booker Prize. The book originally titled ‘Ret Samadhi’ in Hindi was translated into English by Daisy Rockwell. It is the first book in any Indian language to win the International Booker Prize.

Talking about her writing style, Shree said, “I did not have any clear intention of writing about a major theme. I do not care about the ‘big’ subject. I like to start with some interest and curiosity in the mundane. In this book, there is an elderly woman (Ma) turning her back to life, to family. This image stayed with me.”

She said that somehow the border line between the mundane and the epic is “very, very thin”. “It happens organically. Ordinary connects to the extraordinary. The stories are always simmering in society,” she said.

Answering questions at the LitFest, Shree said that the book flowed in general. “The fun is really in the process of writing, unless the writer has an agenda. If the writer has an agenda, then their whole agony is different. The process is what will lead to the whole structure. But that does not mean that one didn’t feel stuck or wondered how to proceed at times,” she said.

The book which won her the prestigious award took around eight-nine years to write. She mentioned how a friend told her: “You are completely audacious, and that audacity comes from the fact that you are not looking for spectacular success and you are not scared of spectacular failure.” Shree said that this gave her freedom, and as she was not in a hurry, she could go on writing.

The book focuses on Partition. Talking about Partition of the country between India and Pakistan, Shree said, “Partition was never complete. We are half from here and half from there and sometimes confused, including Khushwant Singh. That border has been created politically, forced down the two countries. Do all people accept it? I think not.”

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Partition was never complete, border was created politically, says Booker Prize winner Geetanjali Shree
Partition was never complete, border was created politically, says Booker Prize winner Geetanjali Shree
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