news Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute| November 3, 2014|

A book that took 10 years of research, an author who hardly left her house so she could write a book on Mary Magdalene.

Some weeks ago, a large section of the Malayalam media celebrated an author named Rethy Devi. She was interviewed by all major news channels in the state. It was a moment of pride as her book ‘The Gospel of Mary Magdalene and Me’ was amongst those named in the first list of 50 books for Man Booker Prize 2014.

Rethy Devi told Asianet in an interview, “I was born in a small village in Kerala and you know how prestigious the Man Booker prize is, it speaks of a Cambridge, Oxford culture. It is a matter of pride for me that I am on the top 50 list.”

To Manorama TV she talks about how she stayed inside her house for years to complete the book. 

For some days in the month of August 2014, (after the Man Booker Prize 2014 Longlist was announced in July) almost every prominent news channel in Kerala and many web portals carried stories about her.

There is just one glitch here. There is no Man Booker prize shortlist 50 or long list 50. The only two lists includes a long list that was announced on 23 July 2014 and the shortlist that was announced on 9 September 2014.

So which list was Rethy Devi talking about? When we tried calling her, she answered her California number, but refused to speak. She repeatedly told us that she can respond only after some days.

Her book was reportedly published by Raider publications in UK. Though our query was initially not answered, the publisher told us later that the book was submitted for Man Booker prize, not shortlisted.

"Thank you for your email. I'm happy to clarify this matter. We have published Rethi's book and her book was submitted to the Man Booker Prize Committee for consideration, as she has stated. That being said, her book was not selected for the longlist, unless there were some changes that we are not aware of. I apologize for the confusion regarding this and I will be having a word about these comments with her, " replied Adam Salviani of the Raider Publishing International.

Rethy Devi’s friend and former journalist Leen Thobias told us that this year there were many submissions, including 30 from the Commonwealth countries and insisted she was on ‘that’ list. “The publishing house told us that they have received an acknowledgement from Man Booker for submission of book,” Thobias said. (There were 154 books submitted for the prize this year)

Was the book just submitted or was it shortlisted? When we insisted on that question, Leen Thobias said they have only said the book was submitted. But clearly, that’s untrue, as in more than one interview the author talk about her book being in the Longlist 50. 

The book has been published last week (again) by Green House Publishers. The owner of the publishing house Krishnadas said they have a letter of proof from Man Booker Prize Committee and the media was trying to ‘create a controversy.’

When we approached the Booker Prize Committee, its representative Katy MacMillan-Scott said, “As the submissions for the prize are confidential, we do not disclose which books the judges read – to the media, publishers or authors. On this basis, there is no way Rethi Devi would know whether she had made the final 50 – so this information is incorrect. The Longlist is made up of 12-13 books and was announced in July. Rethi’s book was not on it. You can see all the 2014 nominees here.

So as the Booker Committee office confirms, there is no long or short list 50 and they don’t send any acknowledgement about any list except to the publishers of the 12-13 books who are actually on the long list. 

Rethy Devi’s claims have definitely created a buzz about her book and may reap the benefits once it is released in Kerala. Individuals can make many claims, but how did so many TV channels interview her and many wrote about her?

The Editor of one of the channels told us that a cameraperson’s friend told them about Rethy Devi’s accomplishment and they decided to interview her. He did not want to be named.

Another Editor was not sure how they stumbled on the story.

We had earlier reported about an engineer named Arun, again from Kerala, who was covered by the media for two years, for getting recruited by NASA, meeting the Prime Minister, being patriotic and what not. Arun's claims were also all lies.

Read- How Arun a 'scientist from NASA' fooled the Indian media for two years

Booker Prize committee’s official replied to our query in six minutes.

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.