Jhumpa Lahiri kicks some butt (updated)

Domination is common in sports, such as when Rafael Nadal trounced Roger Federer 6-1 6-3 6-0 in the FrenchLahiri$jhumpa_hres
Open final or India beat Bermuda by 257 runs in last year’s cricket World Cup. But it doesn’t happen in literary contests, at least not until Jhumpa Lahiri shows up. Just picture her wearing boxing gloves and knocking out other authors in the first round. That’s essentially what she did to win the Frank O’ Connor Short Story Award for her collection of short
stories “Unaccustomed Earth.” The judges didn’t even bother composing a shortlist for the award.

The judges – Granta fiction editor Rosalind Porter, Cork City chief
librarian Liam Ronayne and Irish Times Literary correspondent Eileen
Battersby – were immediately and unanimously convinced the book should

a unanimous winner at this early stage we decided it would be a sham to
compose a shortlist and put five other writers through unnecessary
stress and suspense,” explained the award’s director, Pat Cotter. “Not
only were the jury unanimous in their choice of Lahiri’s Unaccustomed
Earth as the winner, they were unanimous in their belief that so
outstanding was Lahiri’s achievement in this book that no other title
was a serious contender.” [Link]

I wonder how the other authors feel. Lahiri literally kicked their butts. I mean, literarily.

UPDATE: My wife says they were cheated out of a potential shortlisting. And I tend to agree. Imagine if the NFL had canceled the playoffs last year and awarded the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots, saying they were far and away the best team in America, having finished the regular season 16-0. If an underdog like the New York Giants can pull off an epic upset in the Super Bowl, is it so far-fetched to believe that Tim Jones, author of Transported, might shock Lahiri in the playoffs with a last-second Hail Mary pass?

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. Thanks for the mention. I fully accept my underdog status relative to Jhumpa Lahiri, and there’s little doubt she would have won. Still, I prefer a cricketing analogy – my chances of winning were about the same as that of Bangladesh beating Australia in a One Day International – that doesn’t happen often, but it has happened once!
    My wife put the best possible spin on the longlist being cancelled: “Now you can say you finished second-equal for the Frank O’Connor Award!” I think this might be pushing it a bit, myself.

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