Saturday 25 November 2017

Sharma 'embarrassed' to win €100,000 prize

'Dublin Literary Award will buy me time,' reveals 'shy' winner

'Family Life' writer Akhil Sharma with his award at the Mansion House. Photo: Jason Clarke
'Family Life' writer Akhil Sharma with his award at the Mansion House. Photo: Jason Clarke

Ciara Treacy

The winner of the world's most valuable literary award, Akhil Sharma, will use his €100,000 cash prize to "buy some time" and complete his next collection of books.

Sharma (44) was announced as the winner of the 2016 International Dublin Literary Award for his book 'Family Life' at a ceremony in the Mansion House yesterday.

First published in 2014, the novel is an autobiographical account of an Indian family and their emigration to the US in the 1970s.

Told from the perspective of eight-year-old boy Ajay, it goes on to describe the tragic circumstances faced by the family after their move from Delhi. The book took Sharma 13 years to write.

Sharma, an assistant professor of English at New Jersey's Rutgers University, believes the book's balance between humour and seriousness gained it a "warm reception" from readers.

"I actually feel kind of embarrassed to win," he said.

"It's funny because as a writer you hope that the book gets attention, which should mean that the writer wants attention, but once it comes, you get shy."

In its 21st year, the literary award receives nominations from public libraries across the world.

Sharma was shortlisted among nine other authors, including Man Booker prize winner Marlon James and Irish author Mary Costello.

"I was surprised to have won, especially among the other authors shortlisted.

"I actually went to grad school with Jenny Erpenbeck (author of 'The End of Days')," the Manhattan-based writer said.

"Winning the prize doesn't mean it's the best book, it just means you won the prize.

"The big benefit of such a prize is that it buys you time. It allows me to finish my next book, a collection of short stories called 'Cosmopolitan'. I have more than half of it written at the moment."

He added the importance of being grateful for his skill.

"To be able to write is fantastic.

"It is important not to think too much about what the book will become as that can harm you and the book."

'Family Life' was previously selected for the 'New York Times' Top 10 Books of the Year and scooped the 2015 Folio Prize. The International Dublin Literary Award award is managed by Dublin City Public Libraries, on behalf of Dublin City Council.

Irish Independent

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