Rahul Bhattacharya wins UK literary prize

London: Delhi-based Rahul Bhattacharya today became the first Indian writer to win the prestigious Ondaatje Prize 2012 for his book – The Sly Company of People Who Care – about an Indian journalist`s adventures. The 10,000 pounds award is given by the Royal Society of Literature annually to a work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry which evokes the "spirit of a place", and which is written by someone who is a citizen of or who has been resident in the Commonwealth or Ireland.

Bhattacharya`s book, published by Picador, was described by judge Michele Roberts as "one of the most exhilarating novels I have read for years". Roberts added: "This picaresque story, funny, tough and romantic, swerves around all kinds of inner and outer landscapes and offers unforgettable vignettes of a host of characters. He has invented a beautiful and original language, mixing street poetry and sharply sensual poetry."

Another judge Nick Laird, said: "On almost every page there were little stylistic twists or felicities which had me stopping to admire them." The shortlist for the prize included Julia Blackburn`s `Thin Paths`, Teju Cole`s `Open City`, Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts` `Edgelands`, Olivia Laing`s `To the River` and Tim Robinson`s `Connemara`.

Bhattacharya is the author of the cricket tour book Pundits from Pakistan, fourth in The Wisden Cricketers` list of best cricket books of all time, and winner of the Crossword Award for most popular book, 2005. The Sly Company of People Who Care was also the winner of the Hindu Literary Prize 2011 and was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize 2011.