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  Books   13 Apr 2024  Mita Kapur: I followed my instincts

Mita Kapur: I followed my instincts

THE ASIAN AGE. | SUCHETA DASGUPTA
Published : Apr 13, 2024, 2:47 pm IST
Updated : Apr 13, 2024, 2:47 pm IST

It is as literary director for the prestigious JCB Prize for Literature that Mita has built herself a lasting legacy

Mita Kapur
 Mita Kapur

As journalist, food memoirist, lit fest producer, and founder and CEO of Siyahi, India’s leading literary consultancy, Mita Kapur has been a well-known name in the world of Indian literature. However, it is as literary director for the prestigious JCB Prize for Literature that she has built herself a lasting legacy. Kapur explains to Sucheta Dasgupta what goes into the presentation of this award and why she is passionate about nurturing talent in this field.

Please tell us a bit about your interest in literature. What sparked it off?

As a family, all of us read copiously. I grew up surrounded by books. Majoring in English Literature and then being a journalist led to a natural segue into the field — I just followed my instincts.

What makes this prize special and/or different from others?

More the number of Prizes around, better the chances of great new books being discovered. Having said that, what sets the JCB Prize for Literature apart is ensuring that all 10 books on the longlist and their authors get due attention from when it is announced. Through collaborations and marketing efforts with online and offline stores we start pushing for shelf space starting September, when the longlist is announced, and try to keep the books in conversation through the literature festival season. Alongside that, to ensure complete transparency, the Prize process, including the jury deliberations are audited by a third-party auditor.

How did the idea of this prize first come about?

This is the seventh year of the JCB Prize for Literature, and the vigour and integrity with which the Prize continues to function comes from its founder, Lord [Anthony] Bamford, and JCB’s desire to create an enduring cultural legacy in India, based on its substantial and long-standing involvement in the country’s social and economic life. One of the core pillars on which the Prize was established was to ensure that not only are we able to highlight distinguished Indian writing but in the process are able to make a difference in the author's life, be it through the promotion of their work or awarding a cash prize that will allow them to focus directly on the writing alone. Year on year, the Foundation team dedicates various collaborations offline and online, to ensure that the books that are longlisted, find new readers, and the authors a better platform for their writing.

How is the jury selected for the award of this prize?

Following the spirit and essence of the JCB Prize, the jury reflects the diversity of all kinds — region, languages, expertise in various art and literary fields, sensitivity, and respect to all forms of creativity including the prime focus — storytelling that is groundbreaking and excellent.

Name a book that you have recently read and enjoyed.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig and Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.

What kind of books are you looking forward to reading in the seventh year of the prize?

The Prize is dependent on the entries made by publishers.

 

Tags: mita kapur, founder of siyahi