Indian-origin author Avni Doshi inches closer to 2020 ‘Booker Prize’


London: Dubai-based Indian-origin writer Avni Doshi, who is shortlisted among six authors for the 2020 Booker Prize for her debut novel ‘Burnt Sugar’, will find out the outcome of this year’s prestigious literary competition later Thursday evening. Avni Doshi, born in the US and now living in Dubai, is in the running for the 50,000-pound prize alongside Zimbabwean writer Tsitsi Dangarembga for the third novel in her trilogy ‘This Mournable Body’ on a shortlist otherwise dominated by US authors – Diane Cook for ‘The New Wilderness’, Maaza Mengiste for ‘The Shadow King’ and Brandon Taylor for ‘Real Life’.  New York-based Scottish writer Douglas Stuart completes the final six with ‘Shuggie Bain’, a coming of age story set in Glasgow.

Doshi, 38, has spoken about the long journey to her debut novel, which was released in India last year as ‘Girl in White Cotton’ and had its UK release in July.

“I wrote ‘Burnt Sugar’ over many years and many drafts. It’s hard to pinpoint the original inspiration, but I remember being in my grandmother’s flat in Pune, and noticing a distortion in the mirror in her bedroom that warped my reflection,” Doshi said.

“For a moment I could see two different people in my face. That day, I wrote what would become the first fragment of the novel. Memory as a theme appears throughout ‘Burnt Sugar’, but I brought in Alzheimer’s disease more recently, after my grandmother was diagnosed with the illness and I began to read everything I could find to learn about her condition,” she added.

Doshi’s book centres on a very charged mother-daughter bond, which the author says reflects that mother-daughter relationships can be fraught and full of conflict, but ‘somehow the conversation still elicits discomfort’.

The Booker Prize ceremony this year will be very different due to the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. The organisers say that the innovative and globally accessible 2020 ‘winner ceremony without walls’ will be broadcast from London’s ‘Roundhouse’.

All six shortlisted authors will join the ceremony via a special screen in the ‘Roundhouse’ and the event will also include both virtual and in-person special guests.

Former US President Barack Obama will talk about what reading Booker Prize novels has meant to him and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, will share her thoughts on the importance of reading during the pandemic, also via videolink.