JCB is probably best known for its delightful yellow earthmoving and construction equipment, the stuff of every young boy’s dreams.
But this year and onwards JCB is also going to become a part of every Indian author’s dreams, as it launches the JCB prize for Literature.
JCB of course is not noted for its appreciation of Indian literature, and the judging will be totally independent of the company, with novelist Rana Dasgupta overseeing the event as literary director.
The prize is ground-breaking both for its awards – 25 lakh (2.5 million) rupees to the outright winner ($38,000), and for its broad range, embracing books from any Indian languages that have been translated into English.
The stated aims of the prize are

  • To enhance the prestige and commercial success of contemporary Indian literature
  • To create greater prominence for literary writers in Indian cultural and intellectual life
  • To foster translation between Indian languages, and to introduce readers to Indian writing in languages other than their own

Each shortlisted author will receive 1 lakh rupees ($1,500) and if the winning title is a translation from an Indian language the translator will receive 5 lakh rupees ($7,700).
The longlist of ten will be announced in September, and a shortlist of five in October, with the winner to be declared at an awards ceremony on November 3.
Self-published works will not be eligible, and authors must be Indian citizens.
The bar on self-published titles will raise shackles in some quarters, no doubt, but perhaps a more important debate arising is how one defines a work of national literature.
But that’s a debate for another time.
You can find the full rules for the JCB Literature prize here.