Anita Desai

Article Works www
crossroads:
interculturalism, loneliness, love, spirituality
genre(subgenre):
Written and spoken word (general)
region:
Asia, Southern and Central
country/territory:
India
created on:
April 28, 2005
last changed on:
Please note: This page has not been updated since November 21, 2005. We decided to keep it online because we think the information is still valuable.
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Article

Anita Desai (originally Anita Mazumdar) was born to a German mother and an Indian father in Mussoorie, India, in 1937. When she was a child, German was spoken at home and Hindi outside of the family. But the language she learned to read and write was English, which is also the language in which she publishes her works.
She knew that she wanted to be a writer at a very early age: At age 9, she published her first short story. After studying English at the University of New Delhi, she completely dedicated herself to writing. She has published novels, short stories, and children’s books.

Anita Desai belongs to a generation of Indian authors for whom publishing in English was an experiment. This only changed in 1980 with the success of Salman Rushdie’s ´Midnight’s Children.´ Anita Desai’s novels are mostly situated in a big city middle-class environment and focus on people, who, after the end of colonial rule, are trying to establish their lives anew or live in a world that is no longer stable. The novels present images of Indian life, which revolve around everyday relationships, the clash between traditional ways and power structures, as well as isolation and the longing for love. At the same time they present nuance-filled explorations of the soul. For instance ´Fire on the Mountain´ is about the isolation felt by an older woman and her solitary great granddaughter.

Desai also frequently plays with the perspective of the social outsider or the foreigner to expose Western stereotypes about India this is the case in ´Baumgartner’s Bombay,´ the story of a Jewish emigrant family, and in ´Journey to Ithaca´ (1995). Desai says that she writes to show what is fundamentally important, to discover the truth which has been buried over by so-called reality.

If early in her career Desai still based her work on classic British and Russian writers like E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, Tchechov, and Dostojevski, later she increasingly took the concentration and intensity of poetry as her model. Her prose is concise and clear. It is characterized by a certain soberness and distance to the fictional events.

Desai has received many prizes and has been nominated thrice for the Booker Prize. She lives in India and the U.S., where she teaches Creative Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Author: International Festival of Literature Berlin (ilb)

Works

Hill of Silver, Hill of Lead

Published Written,
2005
Chatto & Windus

The Zig Zag Way

Published Written,
2004
Chatto & Windus

Diamond Dust and other stories

Published Written,
2000
Chatto & Windus: London

Fasting, Feasting

Published Written,
2000
Vintage: London

Journey to Ithaca

Published Written,
1995
A. A. Knopf: New York

In Custody

Published Written,
1984
William Heinemann: London

Cry, the Peacock

Published Written,
1983
Orient Paperbacks: Delhi

The Village by the Sea

Published Written,
1982
Allied Publishers: Bombay

Clear Light of Day

Published Written,
1980
Heinemann

The Peacock Garden

Published Written,
1979
William Heinemann: London

Baumgartner’s Bombay

Published Written,
1978
William Heinemann: London

Games at Twilight and other stories

Published Written,
1978
William Heinemann: London

Fire on the Mountain

Published Written,
1977
Allied Publishers: Bombay

Where shall we go this Summer?

Published Written,
1975
Vikas: New Delhi

Bye Bye Blackbird

Published Written,
1971
Orient Paperbacks/Vision Books: Delhi

Voices in the City

Published Written,
1965
Peter Owen: London

Www

International Festival of Literature Berlin