Mita Kapur JCB lit fest

The JCB Literature Foundation and Amazon India - can you tell us a little more about this association?

Amazon India has set up a dedicated JCB Prize for Literature bookstore on the site with individual pages for each book featuring Prize digital content. There will be a targeted advertising and social media campaign, short interviews with the longlisted authors, and Facebook live sessions with shortlisted authors. The JCBPL Amazon store has all the Prize information including key dates to watch out for, and the jury for this year.

“We have a rich tradition of storytelling from every corner of the country, passed down through generations,.”

India has a treasure trove of Indic literature, will these awards bring back the spotlight on them?

To highlight the long history of Indian literature, I think it's important to look at contemporary fiction and see how it holds the echoes of the past while setting the path for the future. We have a rich tradition of storytelling from every corner of the country, passed down through generations, either in oral or written forms. Even when books are written in English, the content, narrative style and structure could be inspired by these older forms, which makes contemporary fiction in India a fascinating hybrid of the local in a global format. Apart from the merit of the book itself, literary awards seek to recognize the importance of the book in the context of a country's literature.

Regional authors winning big (a Malayalam author won big last time) - how will this change the literary landscape for authors who write in vernacular languages?

There has always existed an enthusiastic audience for books in Indian languages. Every language shapes a book in a different way, and when it's translated, it takes yet another form. This, I believe, multiplies the ways we think stories can be told. It also broadens our understanding of the many cultures and peoples across India. With many regional authors winning literary awards, I hope this means we'll see more innovative stories and ideas being told in mainstream contemporary fiction. I also hope that by showcasing how excellent Indian language fiction is, more people will explore literature outside their comfort/primary language.

“Literary awards seek to recognize the importance of the book in the context of a country's literature.”

This year's cycle - what stood out for you?

The books on the longlist this year are genre-bending, shunning banal protagonists and hackneyed storylines. While not directly addressing the global situation, these books seemed to reflect how turbulent our world was in 2020-21. I think we forget how prescient fiction can be -- maybe not always in content but in capturing the tone and mood of a particular time. Reading the books on the longlist reminded me of how relevant art is to human existence; it gives us a haven to retreat to, and recuperate from harsh reality, or a solace in finding our troubles mirrored in another’s narrative.