Indian author Meena Kandasamy to receive PEN Germany award | Books | DW

PEN Darmstadt Center in Germany announced the winners of the Hermann Kesten Prize on Monday, September 19. This year’s award goes to Meena Kandasamy, an Indian author and poet, whose books include ‘The Gypsy Goddess’ (2014) and ‘When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife’ (2017 ). She has also published anthologies of her poems, including “Ms Militancy” (2010) and “#ThisPoemWillProvokeYou and Other Poems” (2015).

“Honestly, I don’t know how to process this,” Kandasamy told DW in a statement shortly after learning she had won the award. “Previous recipients include Günter Grass and Harold Pinter, and the weight of what this award means is still sinking in,” she said, adding that she sees this award “not just as an affirmation of what I have done, but of the story responsibility that we all have as progressive writers and artists in India today.”

Kandasamy was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2018

Fearless Fighter for Democracy

German PEN Center Vice President Cornelia Zetzsche called Kandasamy “a fearless fighter for democracy and human rights, for free speech and against the repression of the landless, minorities and Dalits in India. : not a “Mrs. Pleasant” but more of a “Mrs. Militancy”, as the title of one of her books.” Zetsche was referring to Kandasamy’s 2011 poetry collection titled “Ms Militancy.”

“With empathy, analytical precision and literary fervor, she [Kandasamy] cuts through patriarchal and feudal structures and identifies in speeches and writings, violence against women, the consequences of unbridled capitalism and the slaughter of farmers in southern India,” Zetzsche added.

Arts and Culture Minister Angela Dorn of the state of Hesse, which sponsors the prize, also hailed the Indian author, saying Kandasamy has rebelled in her books against inequality and repression. “She gives a voice to victims of violence and always speaks up when intellectuals, dissidents and scholars face distress.”

defend the persecuted

Kandasamy was born in 1984 in Chennai to university professor parents. She has been writing poetry since she was a teenager and describes herself as an “anti-caste activist, poet, novelist and translator”. According to her website, her writing aims to deconstruct trauma and violence, while shedding light on militant resistance against caste, gender, and ethnic oppression.

Kandasamy’s novels have been shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, the International Dylan Thomas Prize and the Hindu Literary Prize. This year she was elected a Fellow of the UK’s Royal Society of Literature (RSL). She also released a collection of essays in 2021 titled “The Orders Were to Rape You: Tamil Tigresses in the Eelam Struggle”.

Kandasamy has spoken out about the crackdown on perpetrators in India, including Telugu poet Varavara Rao, who was arrested in 2018 for allegedly inciting caste-based violence. She also spoke in favor of GN Saibaba, a poet and professor at Delhi University, who is in prison for his alleged links with left-wing organisations.

The PEN Center, Germany will present the award to the Indian author at a ceremony in Darmstadt on November 15 this year. The winner will receive an amount of €20,000 ($19,996) as prize money. This year, the PEN Center is also honoring the website “Weiter Schreiben” (German for “Keep Writing”) with a Special Encouragement Award, for giving authors in exile and writers from conflict zones a platform form to express their thoughts.

The Hermann Kesten prize rewards personalities who, in the spirit of the charter of the PEN association, defend the rights of persecuted authors and journalists. Previous winners include Günter Grass, Anna Politkowskaya, Liu Xiaobo, Harold Pinter and Can Dündar.

Edited by Brenda Haas

Lola R. McClure