Booker Prize voor Kiran Desai


De jonge Indiase schrijfster Kiran Desai heeft dinsdagavond de Booker Prize van 50 duizend pond gewonnen, de belangrijkste prijs voor Engelstalige literatuur. Desai krijgt de prijs voor de roman De erfenis van het verlies (The Inheritance of Loss), een familieverhaal dat wordt verteld tegen de achtergrond van een Nepalese opstand in de jaren tachtig. Desai verliet India toen zij 14 jaar was, verbleef een jaar in Engeland en verhuisde toen naar de VS om er te studeren. Zij bezocht Bennington College, Hollins University, en de Columbia University, waar zij twee jaar van vrij nam om haar eerste boek te schrijven: Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard.

 

Uit: Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard

 

It was this year that Sampath Chawla was born to his mother, Kulfi. She was twenty-one years old, newly married to Mr. Chawla, and pregnant. By late September the heat and lack of rain had combined to produce terrible conditions of drought. She grew bigger as it got worse. It got to be so bad that famine-relief camps were set up by the Red Cross to the west of Shahkot. The supply planes flew right over the bazaar and Shahkotians, watching with their heads tilted back, wondered why they didn’t stop for them as well, for surely they were suffering quite enough to warrant the same attention and care being so assiduously delivered elsewhere. The ration shop was distributing rice and lentils in smaller and smaller portions all the time. There was no fruit to be found anywhere and hardly any vegetables. Prices had risen so high, nobody would buy the scraggy chickens sitting in cages outside the meat shop. Finally the poor butcher had to eat them himself, and after the last one, he was forced to turn vegetarian like the rest of the town.

Kulfi, in these months, was so enormously large, she seemed to be claiming all the earth’s energy for herself, sapping it dry, leaving it withered, shriveled and yellow.

People stopped short in amazement as she walked down the street. How big she was! They forgot their dealings in the almost empty marketplace. They teetered on their bicycles as they looked around for just another sight of that stomach extending improbably before her like a huge growth upon a slender tree. Her eyes were so dark, so sooty and vehement, though, these people who turned their heads to stare turned quickly away again, ill at ease for some reason and unsettled. Not noticing them, she passed by as if they weren’t there at all. On her face, about her mouth and in the set of her chin was an expression intent and determined but yet far away and distant, as if all her thoughts were concentrated upon a point invisible to everybody but herself. She walked through Shahkot like this, as distracted as this, as strange as this.

‘What do you expect?’ asked Ammaji, her mother-in-law, making excuses when curious neighbors asked about Kulfi’s state of mind. ‘What do you expect from a woman with a baby in her belly like a little fish?’

But Kulfi was not thinking of the baby in her belly like a little fish. She was thinking of fish themselves. Of fish in many forms. Of fish big enough and good enough to feed the hunger that had overtaken her in the past months like a wave. She thought of fish curries and fish kebabs. Of pomfret, bekti, ruhi. Of shoals of whiskered shrimp. Of chewy mussels. She thought of food abundant in all its many incarnations. Of fenugreek and camel milk, yam and corn. Mangoes and coconuts and custard apples. Mushrooms sprouting like umbrellas in the monsoon season. Nuts, wrinkled in their shells, brown-skinned, milky-fleshed.

 

 

 

 

Desai
Kiran Desai (India, 3 september 1971)