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Odisha: Literature

Odia novel not odia enough


State literary award to a woman writer hackles intelligentsia
DHRUTIKAM MOHANTY | Issue Dated: January 15, 2012, New Delhi
Tags : sahitya akademi | odiisha | odia novel | kalpana devi kumari |

On 21 December, the state Sahitya Akademi announced literary awards in which it nominated Kalpana Kumari Devi's book, Achinha Basabhumi (see picture) as the Odiya novel of the year. The decision of the Akademi, has been met with criticism and much disbelief. While many of the writers felt that other more deserving authors should have been considered, the Akademi says it has given the award on merit.

According to the Akademi's December 21 communique it selected eight books of poetry, seven novels, three essays, one each of short stories, narrative history, biography and a play for various awards. Devi's book is one of them.

“Though Sahitya Akademi communiqué says that Devi is a well-known novelist, she is not at all well-known to Odia readers. How could the Akademi select her work? ,” asks Asit Mohanty, writer and editor of Paurusha and a past Sahitya Akademi award winner. Mohanty is not the only one who has questioned the selection.

Rajendra Kishor Panda, a noted poet and member of Odia Advisory Council of Sahitya Akademi was, in fact, the first person to react. Writing on his facebook page he said, “I woke up with a surprise; Kalpana Kumari Devi has been selected to receive this year’s award of the Sahitya Akademi. I confess, I have not read any of her books; it shows my ignorance. Of course, I've seen some of her stories; they were lackluster; maybe, she grew in her dimension later, about which I didn’t know.”

Meanwhile another member of this council and noted columnist, Barendra Krishna Dhal tendered his resignation from the council. He says, “I am unhappy over the selection of books. Some of the books don't merit the award.” Likewise Satakadi Hota, veteran writer and member of Sahitya Akademi’s general council noted acerbically, “I think, the literary mafia, treats Akademi awards as a mineral commodity.”

The Akademi on its part has defended its decision. The state's jury, comprising Chandrasekahr Rath, Srinibas Mishra and Devdas Chhotray says the selection was made in accordance with the procedure laid down by the Akademi.

Of the three, Chandrasekhar Rath has clarified that the jury did not have much of a choice. He told TSI, “The jury came under the pressure from the state convener of Sahitya Akademi, who was present in the meeting of the jury and conducted the same, and also categorically indicated to select the said book for the award.” His statement is born out by the fact that as per clause 5(3) award selection procedure of the Akademi, there is no mention about the provision for a convener in jury meeting.

The question doing the rounds now is whether the Akademi should be swayed by personal choices of its members or merit when deciding a literary award.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017