New Delhi (CNN)India's most valuable literature prize has crowned south Indian writer Benyamin its inaugural winner for his novel "Jasmine Days," a story of a young women caught up in the Arab Spring protests of 2011.
India's most valuable literature prize announces its first winner
The prize, funded by UK construction giant JCB, awarded Benyamin $34,000 at a lavish event in New Delhi on Wednesday evening, with an additional $6,000 for Shahnaz Habib, who translated the book from Malayalam into English.
"The courage shown by Benyamin in 'Jasmine Days' in examining some of the most important conflicts of our times is exceptional" said Vivek Shanbhag, author and chair of the 2018 JCB Prize for Literature judging panel. "The novel provides powerful insights into the violence associated with change."
Benyamin has described the book as a "metaphor for the world today, full of fanatics."
Organizers hope the prize will increase accessibility to literary fiction across a range of Indian languages and expose people to new ideas outside of their so-called "linguistic ghettos," where they are unaware of what other segments of Indian society are talking, writing and thinking about.
India has 22 official languages and a host of other unrecognized tongues and dialects.
"We live in frantic times and translation is one of the things that can bring us together," said author Rana Dasgupta, literary director of the prize, in a speech at the awards ceremony.
He also spoke out in support of India's burgeoning #MeToo movement, which recently rocked the country's political, media and entertainment establishment, and applauded those who had the courage to speak up.