Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree review – the timeless search to be seen

This International Booker-winning story of a woman who travels to Pakistan at the age of 80 to reclaim her true identity is a breath of fresh air

Geetanjali Shree, the first Hindi writer to win the International Booker prize, seems to have come out of nowhere. Until last month, some very famous Hindi Indian journalists didn’t know her name. At 65, she has been writing for about 30 years, and Tomb of Sand, translated by Daisy Rockwell from her book Ret Samadhi, is her fifth novel.

The invisibility of women is a recurring subject in Shree’s work. It seems to be the natural state of women in India, where, despite modernity, men continue to take social and psychological precedence. Visibility may be returned to us conditionally – on having kids, by proving to be indispensable to men, on winning the Booker prize. Shree is an excellent observer of women’s inner lives. What living with men does to women, to their spines. “We always knew mother had a weak spine,” her debut novel Mai (Silently Mother) begins. “Those who constantly bend get this problem.”

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