Arundhati Roy Awarded Pen Pinter Prize For Her ‘Unflinching’ Writing

LONDON: Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy, currently facing the threat of prosecution over historic comments on Kashmir 14 years ago, was on Thursday honoured with the prestigious Pen Pinter Prize 2024 for her “unflinching and unswerving” writings.

The prize, established in 2009 by the charity English PEN, defends freedom of expression and celebrates literature in memory of Nobel-Laureate playwright Harold Pinter.

Roy expressed her delight at being named this year’s winner amid an “incomprehensible turn” the world is taking.

“I am delighted to accept the PEN Pinter prize. I wish Harold Pinter were with us today to write about the almost incomprehensible turn the world is taking. Since he isn’t, some of us must do our utmost to try to fill his shoes,” said 62-year-old Roy.

The renowned author, who won the Booker Prize for her debut novel ‘The God of Small Things’, was chosen by this year’s judges – Chair of English PEN Ruth Borthwick; actor and activist Khalid Abdalla; and writer and musician Roger Robinson. She will receive the award at a ceremony co-hosted by the British Library on October 10, where she will also deliver an address.

“Roy tells urgent stories of injustice with wit and beauty. While India remains an important focus, she is truly an internationalist thinker, and her powerful voice is not to be silenced,” said Borthwick.

“Arundhati Roy is a luminous voice of freedom and justice whose words have come with fierce clarity and determination for almost 30 years now,” said Abdalla.

“This year, as the world faces the deep histories that have created this moment in Gaza, our need for writers who are ‘unflinching and unswerving’ has been immense. In honouring Arundhati Roy this year, we are celebrating both the dignity of her body of work and the timeliness of her words, that arrive with the depth of her craft exactly when we need them most,” he said.

Robinson added: “Arundhati Roy was the unanimous choice for this prestigious award, a testament to her unparalleled contribution to literature.

“Her vast body of work, encompassing both fiction and non-fiction, has not only captivated readers worldwide but also consistently focused on themes of social justice.”

The judges noted Roy’s incisive commentary on issues ranging from environmental degradation to human rights abuses demonstrates her commitment to advocating for the marginalized and challenging the status quo.

“Her unique voice and unwavering dedication to these causes make her a deserving recipient of this honour,” they said.

The prize will be shared with a “Writer of Courage” – one who is active in defence of freedom of expression, often at great risk to their own safety and liberty. The co-winner will be selected and announced by Arundhati Roy from a shortlist of cases supported by English PEN.

The prize is awarded annually to a writer of outstanding literary merit resident in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland or the Commonwealth who, in the words of Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize in Literature speech, casts an “unflinching, unswerving” gaze upon the world and shows a “fierce intellectual determination… to define the real truth of our lives and our societies”. (PTI)

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