An urgent yet engaging protest against the destructive impact of borders, whether between religions, countries or genders. Translated by Daisy Rockwell.

In northern India, an 80-year-old woman slips into a deep depression at the death of her husband, then resurfaces to gain a new lease of life. Her determination to fly in the face of convention confuses her bohemian daughter, who is used to thinking of herself as the more ‘modern’ of the two. To her family’s consternation, Ma then insists on travelling to Pakistan, confronting the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of Partition. Despite its serious themes, Geetanjali Shree’s light touch and exuberant wordplay ensures that Tomb of Sand remains constantly playful - and utterly original.


The 2022 International Booker Prize
Published by
Tilted Axis Press
Publication date

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Geetanjali Shree

Geetanjali Shree

About the Author

Geetanjali Shree won the International Booker Prize in 2022. She is the author of three novels and several story collections, and her work has been translated into English, French, German, Serbian and Korean.
More about Geetanjali Shree
Daisy Rockwell

Daisy Rockwell

About the Translator

Daisy Rockwell is a painter, writer and translator living in Vermont, US.
More about Daisy Rockwell

Geetanjali Shree on Tomb of Sand

‘In the case of Tomb of Sand, the image of an old, bed-ridden woman’s back, who seemed to care to live no more and pushed deeper into the wall, as if to bury herself in it, gradually took hold of me. It aroused my curiosity: is she indeed tired of life and the world and so turning her back to them, or slowly readying herself for a new and different innings in life? When she seems to want to disappear in the wall, is she wanting the end or actually wishing to burrow through and come out on the other side?’

Read the full interview here.

This is not just about me, the individual. I represent a language and culture and this recognition brings into larger purview the entire world of Hindi literature in particular and Indian literature as a whole.

What the judges said

‘This is a luminous novel of India and partition, but one whose spellbinding brio and fierce compassion weaves youth and age, male and female, family and nation into a kaleidoscopic whole.’

What the critics said

Anjali Enjeti, The Star Tribune

‘Shree scrupulously examines the demarcation between life and death, mother and daughter, past and present, and how grief and memory, when harnessed, have the power to cultivate long lost connections. The narrator’s witty observations and lengthy humorous asides…add to the breadth and depth of this rich novel.’

Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

‘Rhymes and puns and other wordplay abound, lending a feeling of spritzy frivolity to an otherwise long and death-haunted tale […] While the prize-winning and acclaim make for a terrific success story, I wish I could muster more enthusiasm for the novel itself. But too much of its burbling lyricism feels insubstantial, like a glass of beer that’s mostly froth.’

Blake Morrison, London Review of Books 

‘The fun lies in the novel’s linguistic exuberance: puns, comma-less disquisitions, alliteration, double entendre, euphony […] A social-realist comedy about the strain on a family when an elderly member is confined to bed or, when out of it, suffers falls and mystery ailments. But fantastical elements complicate the texture, along with lengthy pauses from the main narrative.’

Sonia Faleiro, Times Literary Supplement

‘Geetanjali Shree presents us with an iconoclastic, taboo-destroying eighty-year-old protagonist, destined to challenge one of her ancient culture’s central premisses […] There is a palpable freshness to Shree’s world-building.’

Declan O’Driscoll, Irish Times

‘Concerned with the notion of boundaries and borders, whether it be the simple crossing of a domestic threshold, the instability of gender or the fervent wish of the central character that national borders be meeting places rather than areas of divisive demarcation […] In a year when the judges of the International Booker Prize chose, by common consensus, a very strong long and shortlist, the 2022 winner needed to be a book of exceptional quality. In choosing Tomb of Sand, they awarded the prize to just such a book.’