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Shaheen Akhtar wins Asian Literature Award 2020

  • Published at 03:35 am November 5th, 2020
Shaheen Akhtar

Lit news

Fiction writer Shaheen Akhtar has won the 3rd Asian Literature Award for her 2004 novel Talash. The award was announced on the closing day of the Asia Literature Festival, held from October 29 to November 1 in Gwangju, South Korea. Due to Coronavirus pandemic, this year’s festival was held mainly online and also offline on a limited scale. 

Talash is a powerful novel that depicts with sensitivity the lasting suffering of women who had survived sexual violence during the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971. It won the Prothom Alo Literary Prize in 2004. In 2012 its English translation The Search came out. It was translated into Korean by Professor Seung Hee Jeon and Farhana Shashi, and published in 2018.

29 Asian writers took part in the Asia Literature Festival this year, including Man Booker winner Han Kang.

The other finalists in the third edition of the Asian Literature Award this year were Chinese writer Chi Zijian’s two novels The Last Quarter of the Moon and Mountain Summits, and Taiwanese writer Chu Tien-wen’s novel Notes of a Desolate Man.

Sponsored by the Asia Cultural Center (ACC), the Asian Literature Award was established in 2017 to highlight the aesthetic values of Asian literature, which have often been judged and misrepresented through western literary lens. The award comes with a prize of 20 million won (around $17,500) and an adaptation of the work as a performance piece to be presented at the next festival.

Talking about this year’s winning title, a press release issued by the ACC says, “We believe this novel deserves to be recognized as one of the greatest feminist and anti-war docu-novels of our time, written by an Asian author. It is a monument to suffering and courage in our time, on a par with Svetlana Alexievich’s ‘The Unwomanly Face of the War’, Ruth Klueger’s ‘Still Alive’, or Marta Hillers’ ‘A Woman in Berlin’, while introducing hitherto neglected Asian voices in their vividness.”

Shaheen’s third novel Sokhi Rongomala was translated into English by Shabnam Nadiya as Beloved Rongomala and published by Bengal Lights in 2018. Ashukhi Din won 'Sera Bangali 2014' in the field of literature, an award given by ABP Ananda, a news channel in India. Her novel Moyur Shinghashon won Akhtaruzzaman Elias Kothashahitya Award 2015 and IFIC Bank Award 2015. Shaheen's latest novel, Ashukhi Din, which is about the Bengal Partition won the Gemcon Literary Award in 2019.

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