The PEN Center in Germany’s Darmstadt announced the winners of the Hermann Kesten Prize on Monday 19 September. According to DW, this year’s award goes to Meena Kandasamy, an Indian author and poet, whose books include The Gypsy Goddess, (2014) and When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife (2017). She has also published anthologies of her poems, most notably Ms Militancy (2010) and #ThisPoemWillProvokeYou and Other Poems (2015).
“Honestly, I am not sure how to process it,” Kandasamy told DW in a statement shortly after she heard she had won the award. “Previous recipients include Günter Grass and Harold Pinter, and the weight of what this prize means is actually still sinking in,” she said, adding that she viewed 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.”
Vice-president of the German PEN Center, Cornelia Zetzsche, called Kandasamy “a fearless fighter for democracy and human rights, for the free word and against the suppression of landless people, minorities and Dalits in India: not a ‘Ms. Pleasant’ but more of a ‘Ms. Militancy,’ like the title of one of her books.” Zetsche was referring to Kandasamy’s 2011 book of poems titled Ms Militancy.