Published in 1934, George Orwell’s first novel Burmese Days was set in the days of the Empire, with the British ruling in Burma in the Indo-China region. It is thus appropriate that Siddhartha Deb, associate professor at Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts, has been shortlisted for the 2012 Orwell Prize for his recent book The Beautiful and the Damned: Life in the New India.
The Orwell Prize, which will be awarded on May 23, is Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing. It is awarded every year for the work, which in book, journalism and blog format, comes the closest to George Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’.
My writing deals with the questions of social justice,, said Siddhartha Deb when asked about his reaction to the news. Which is why, knowing what it stands for, it is so gratifying being shortlisted for the Orwell prize.
Deb’s book The Beautiful and the Damned, which interestingly enough has had the first chapter banned from being published in India due to a lawsuit, examines India’s many contradictions through various individual and extraordinary perspectives. From leadership seminars in fancy hotels to medieval figures walking from town to town looking for work in small town factories; from the na√Øve waitresses working in the mecca of five star hotels to farmers struggling to grow the right crops for the 21st century, Deb’s book paints a portrait of a modern India in turmoil through the story of its people: aspiring and deluded, desperate and hopeful, beautiful and damned.