Indian activist-author Meena Kandasamy wins German PEN award

Indian activist-author-poet Meena Kandasamy has been announced as the recipient of the Hermann Kesten Award 2022, which is given by the PEN Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. The award is given to Kandasamy in honour and recognition of her support for the rights of victimized writers. It also recognizes her works on the issues of caste, ethnic oppression, and gender.

The Hermann Kesten Award is given “for outstanding efforts in support of persecuted writers according to the principles of the Charter of PEN International,” as per their website. Started in 1985, the award was initially given once in two years till 1993; since 1994 it is being given annually.

Praising Kandasamy for her exceptional work, Cornelia Zetzsche, Vice President- German PEN Center, called her “a fearless fighter for democracy and human rights, for the free word and against the oppression of landless, minorities and Dalit in India.” Referring to Kandasamy’s 2010 poetry book ‘Ms Militancy’, Zetzsche further called Kandasamy “a ‘Ms. Militancy’”.

Commenting on winning the award, Kandasamy told DW in a statement that she saw this prize “not only as an affirmation of what I have done, but of the historical responsibility that we all have as progressive writers and artists in India today.”

Kandasamy was born in Chennai, India in 1984. She previously worked for ‘The Dalit’ magazine, and later turned a full-time writer and activist. Some of her notable books are ‘Touch’ (2006), ‘When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife’ (2017), among others. Previously, her works have been shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and the International Dylan Thomas Prize. Kandasamy has also been vocal for her support to repressed Indian writers including Varavara Rao and GN Saibaba.

More recently Kandasamy was also inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Sharing the news, she had tweeted:

Kandasamy will be presented the award during a ceremony in Darmstadt, Germany on November 15, 2022.

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