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Frontlist | Book on Jallianwala Bagh wins History-Literary prize

Frontlist | Book on Jallianwala Bagh wins History-Literary prize
on Dec 04, 2020
Frontlist | Book on Jallianwala Bagh wins History-Literary prize
The Patient Assassin: A True Tale of Massacre, Revenge and the Raj - a book British Indian journalist and author Anita Anand has won a prestigious history-literary prize in the UK. The book tells the story of a young man caught up in the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar.  It is based on the life of Udham Singh who assassinated Michael Dwyer to take revenge for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. The judges described it as a 'genuine historical classic' which will be read for decades to come.
Anita Anand's The Patient Assassin is the story of a murderer and his victim - a British colonial official assassinated by an Indian avenger more than two decades after the horrific Amritsar massacre of 1919, for which that official was partly responsible. Yet it is much more than the story of two men, said Rana Mitter, chair of judges. It is an account of how global the spirit of anti-imperialist revolution was in the early twentieth century. It is also an empathetic account of how categories of good and evil in the context of empire have to be understood in more nuanced and complex ways. For those looking to question empire in the present day, it is a book that provides many answers, he said. The judges said that in seeking this year's winner, they wanted a book packed with historical rigour, a rich base of research, and an ability to speak to wider historical questions beyond its immediate subject.
We also hoped that it would be the kind of read we couldn't put down. Getting all of that in one book might have been too much to ask - but as it turned out, our 2020 winner has displayed all those qualities and more, added Mitter.
Anand, who is a political journalist who has presented television and radio programmes on the BBC for 20 years, said she is honoured and overwhelmed to be named winner of a prize that was packed with exceptional books by esteemed historians.
I will be pinching myself for some time to come. The Patient Assassin is very close to my heart. Having been weaned on the story of Jallianwala Bagh, thanks to our family connection, I wanted to write the history of the massacre and Udham Singh's revenge as an antidote to the rose-tinted portrayals of the Raj so popular in film and television, she said.
I also needed to understand how such unspeakable things could be allowed to happen. Faced by complicated characters, contrary accounts, obscure sources, the weight of folklore and deliberate attempts to hide the truth, I sometimes doubted that I could do justice to this dark episode. I'm so glad I persevered, she said, adding that the recognition for the story would mean a lot to her father and grandfather.

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