Anuradha Roy’s Sleeping on Jupiter in Booker longlist

Anuradha Roy’s Sleeping on Jupiter in Booker longlist

August 2, 2015

Awards are not new to her, and another feather might soon be added to her cap, the biggest till date. Anuradha Roy has been shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize longlist, announced in London on July 29. She is the only Indian in the longlist this time around. 

Roy has made it to the list with her third novel, Sleeping on Jupiter, set in a fictional Indian temple town with dark underpinnings. It is a book “about people in search of a different universe,” according to the author (One character dreams of sleeping on Jupiter under its sixteen moons). The book was launched last May in London as part of the Asia House Bagri Foundation Literature Festival 2015. 

This Presidency College (now Presidency University) and Cambridge University alumnus – a novelist, journalist and editor – is the author of three novels. 

Her first novel, An Atlas of Impossible Longing (2008) has been translated into fifteen languages across the world. It was named by World Literature Today as one of the ‘60 Essential English-Language Works of Modern Indian Literature.’ It was also picked as one of the Best Books of the Year by the well-known newspapers, Washington Post and The Seattle Times.

Her second novel, The Folded Earth (2011), set in the picturesque mountain-town of Ranikhet, won the Economist Crossword Prize for Fiction in 2012. It was also part of the longlist for the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize and the shortlist for The Hindu Literary Prize-2011. Now, her third novel is in the running for one of the biggest literary prizes of the world.

She is also the author of fine non-fiction works. Her essay, ‘Cooking Women’ (2004) won the First Prize at the 2004 Outlook/Picador India Non-Fiction Competition. Her journalism is published in Outlook, Daily Beast, India Today, Outlook Traveller, National Geographic Traveller, Biblio, Telegraph, Indian Express, and The Hindu.

Anuradha Roy and her husband, Rukun Advani, are the co-founders of the publishing house, Permanent Black, which they started in 2000. It publishes books mainly about history and politics, and is one of the most respected independent presses in South Asia. Anuradha designs all the book covers while Rukun does the publishing. Alongside being a writer and editor, Roy's own alternate universes involve pottery and painting.

The Man Booker Prize shortlist of six will be announced on September 15 and the winner on October 13, at the annual gala ceremony at Guildhall in London. Here’s hoping she makes it all the way to the top.

Sleeping on Jupiter: A review

It was during one of those afternoon escapades at Starmark that the intriguing blue cover of Sleeping on Jupiter first caught my attention. On seeing a Bengali name as the author, my interest increased and I browsed through the pages. The next few visits to the bookstore would only be spent reading Anuradha Roy’s heart-wrenching, lyrical masterpiece which has now been long-listed for the 2015 Man Booker Prize.

Sleeping on Jupiter is the story of the Nomi, born in India but adopted and raised by a foster-mother in Oslo. Nomi has returned to India to visit Jarmuli, a small temple-town on the banks of the Bay of Bengal, in search of her past. She is seeking closure.

The narrative begins when Nomi is six or seven, in the years after the war when she was separated from her family and was taken to an ashram. Hopping from past to present, Anuradha brilliantly sketches a tale of violence and abuse that young Nomi had undergone in the ashram.

Then there is the trip of Vidya, Gauri and Latika – three friends in their 60s. “Three old biddies from Calcutta,” a hotel manager describes them. The narrative also introduces us to Suraj, who works as a liaison person for a TV channel and has his share of ambitions as well. There’s also Badal, a street-smart temple guide who is essential in the plot.

Anuradha Roy’s vivid sketch of the characters will make them lively for the reader. Whether it is the predatory Guruji or the brutal scenes of child sexual abuse, the words strike directly at your heart. The picturesque description of the quaint town of Jarmuli also strikes a chord.

The precision of writing, striking prose and the earthy, humane narrative make this book stand out. The author’s exquisite eloquence and evocative writing makes a simple story much more precious. Sleeping on Jupiter is truly representative of modern India and the associated hypocrisies of our society.

Written by Anushtup Haldar for Team

Book review by Agnivo Niyogi for Team

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