Shashi Tharoor

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colonialism, politics, post-colonialism
Written and spoken word (general)
Asia, Southern and Central, Europe, Western, America, North
India, England (UK), United States of America
created on:
April 28, 2005
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Shashi Tharoor
Sashi Tharoor


The Indian writer and diplomat Shashi Tharoor was born in 1956 in London at the time his father worked for the English-language Indian newspaper ´The Statesman´. Tharoor studied in India and in the U.S., where at age 22 he received a doctorate in law and diplomacy. He then worked for the United Nations. In the early 1980s at the time of the crisis with the Vietnamese ´boat people´, he was in charge of the U.N. refugee office in Singapore and later coordinated measures to secure peace in the former Yugoslavia. From 1997 to 1998 he was the assistant to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. In 2002 Annan appointed him Under Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information at the U.N.
Tharoor, who initially saw his diplomatic work as a passing thing, today describes writing and the UN as two equally important aspects of his responses to the world: "without either, a part of my psyche would wither on the vine." He continually takes new approaches to one central topic: his native country, India. While he remains faithful to this one topic, he works with a variety of literary genres: In addition to novels, he writes newspaper articles, short stories, nonfiction books, and scholarly works.

´The Great Indian Novel´ (1989) is a modern ironic adaptation of the national epic, the ´Mahabharata´, and is narrated from a 20th century viewpoint. ´Show Business´ (1992) – filmed in 1994 under the title ´Bollywood´ – is a satire on the Indian film industry. He has received numerous awards for his works.

Set against the background of religious tensions in India, Tharoor’s most recent novel ´Riot. A Love Story´ (2001) is about an American woman and a married government official who have a secret love affair. After riots between Hindus and Muslims at a procession, the woman is found stabbed. In this book as in his nonfiction book ´India. From Midnight to Millennium´ (1997) Tharoor does without a general narrative perspective. Instead, he brilliantly combines fictive newspaper articles, diary entries, letters, and fragments from conversations into a collage, which not only leaves it up to the reader to decide which truth he or she would like to follow, but also makes it clear, that the Indian reality with its long and varied history and its current pluralisms and conflicts is too complex to be reduced to a simple formula: “There is more than one answer to every question and more than one way of looking at every particular problem,” says Tharoor. Today he lives in New York.
Author: International Festival of Literature Berlin


Shadows Across the Playing Field: Sixty Years of India-Pakistan Cricket

Published Written,
with Shaharyar Khan. Roli Books

The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cellphone

Published Written,
Arcade Publishing

Bookless in Baghdad

Published Written,
Penguin Publishing

Nehru: The Invention of India

Published Written,

Kerala: God´s Own Country

Published Written,
Books Today


Published Written,
Penguin Publishers (India), Arcade Publishers

India: From Midnight to the Millenium

Published Written,
Harper Perennial

Show Business

Published Written,
Picador: London

The Five-Dollar Smile

Published Written,
Viking: New Delhi

Reasons of State

Published Written,
Vikas Pub House: New Delhi


Rajika Kripalani Young Journalist Award for the Best Indian Journalist under 30
Federation of Indian Publishers´ Hindustan Times Literary Award for the Best Book of the Year (for The Great Indian Novel).
Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for the Best Book of the Year in the Eurasian Region (for The Great Indian Novel)
Excelsior Award for excellence in literature by the Association of Indians in America (AIA) and the Network of Indian Professionals (NetIP);
Global Leader of Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland
Honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in International Affairs by the University of Puget Sound
Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, India’s highest honour for non-resident Indians
Doctorate Honoris Causa by the University of Bucharest, Romania
Hakim Khan Sur Award for National Integration by the Maharana of Udaipur;
Zakir Hussain Memorial Pride of India Award;
GQ´s Inspiration of the Year Award at its Man of the Year Awards
Sarva Deshiya Prathibha award by the Pazhassiraja Charitable Trust, Kozhikode/India;
New Age Politician of the Year Award by NDTV at its Indian of the Year awards;
Fifth IILM Distinguished Global Thinker Award in New Delhi;
Digital person of the year at the first ever Indian Digital Media Awards (IDMA) for popularising the digital medium in India


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the partner institutions.


Exhibition, Films, Literature, Dance, Conference

(13 March 08 - 18 May 08)


International Festival of Literature Berlin

Official website of the author