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Two new awards without borders

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The Little Magazine SALAM
South Asian Literature Awards for the Masters
New Writing Award

Bronze sculpture by K.S. RADHAKRISHNAN

South Asia is about to brush aside language and political boundaries, and have its own literary award for the whole region. The Little Magazine SALAM (ie South Asian Literature Award for the Masters) is a lifetime achievement award for literary stalwarts of South Asia. This is the first and only professionally chosen honour to treat South Asia as a single cultural region without borders.

The Little Magazine, India's only professionally produced independent publication dedicated to literature, art and social concerns, is instituting two new awards for literature which may change the way we look at creativity. These are

1. The Little Magazine SALAM, and
2. The Little Magazine New Writing Award.

1. The Little Magazine SALAM (South Asian Literature Award for the Masters)
The pre-eminent figures in contemporary fiction, poetry and drama from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan will be honoured by their peers and readers. Unlike international awards like the Commonwealth Literature prize or the Booker Prize, awards in India honour writers only within the country. And the Commonwealth and Booker have their limitations - they consider only literature in English, which is a small though important segment of the literatures of their regions. TLM SALAM rectifies both these biases of nationalism and power language, and pays tribute to pure merit in the literature of the region.

Literature spills over boundaries. Urdu or Punjabi literature spans India and Pakistan, Bengali literature straddles India and Bangladesh, Tamil literature bridges India and Sri Lanka. These Awards will erase the artificial borders that divide our region and honour literary greats in an inclusive and responsible way.

Stalwarts from various South Asian language literatures will be honoured in three categories: Fiction, Poetry and Drama & Other Genres. This is an attempt to celebrate literature without borders and express our debt of gratitude to the frontrunners in literature who have enriched South Asian culture as a whole.

The nominations from the 30-odd languages of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal came in from TLM's resource people, including readers, writers, editors and independent publishers. This year's jury consists of respected South Asian literary figures: U.R. Ananthamurthy, Gulzar, Nabaneeta Dev Sen, Mrinal Pande, K. Satchidanandan, Selina Hossain (from Bangladesh) and Zaheda Hina (from Pakistan).

The award is a personalised composition in bronze for each awardee by the noted sculptor K.S. Radhakrishnan and is accompanied by a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh each.

This year, the awards have gone to the following literary personalities:

1. Vijay Tendulkar for Drama (Marathi). Tendulkar was unanimously chosen by the jury.

2. Kamala Das for Fiction (Malayalam). Though Das is better known to readers outside Kerala for her poetry in English, she is celebrated in her home state for her Malayalam fiction, which she writes under the nom de plume of Madhavikutty.

3. Shamsur Rahman for Poetry (Bengali). The unofficial poet of the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war, Rahman is the greatest living poet of his country.

2. The Little Magazine New Writing Award:
The first award for new writing in any South Asian language, this aims to encourage emerging talent across the region. While new writers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka have been very successful in the West, in South Asia there is no tradition or method of rewarding new writers. The Little Magazine New Writing Award introduces the concept of recognising young writers as part of South Asia's literary continuum.

TLM sorted through the several thousand submissions that it has received over the last six years, and made a shortlist with the help of a small selection committee consisting of young independent publishers. This year's final jury for New Writing consists of the eminent authors Keki Daruwalla, Upamanyu Chatterjee and Lakshmi Kannan.

This award is also sculpted by K.S. Radhakrishnan and is accompanied by a cash prize of Rs 30,000.

This year, the award goes to Jayant Sankrityayana, an automobile designer based in Pune, for a short story in the fantasy and science fiction genre titled 'Tsunami'. His first published story, it appeared in The Little Magazine in 2004.

The jury's choice for both these awards will be announced on Sunday, 26th March. The Little Magazine Awards ceremony will be conducted by Girish Karnad at 6:30 pm on Monday, 27th March, at the Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. Awards will be given away by Amartya Sen, Gulzar and others. The ceremony is open to the public.

Since its birth in May 2000, The Little Magazine has focused on literary excellence in South Asia, bringing translations of quality fiction, poetry, drama and filmscripts from its various languages to a wider readership in English. It is also the only regular platform in the print media for new writers, seeking out new talent among first time poets, fiction writers and playwrights. These awards, which publicly recognise achievement in these two areas, are a logical extension of The Little Magazine's work