India Smiles : The Daughter Gets Booker Prize


Indian novelist Kiran Desai succeeded on 10 Oct., 06 where her mother failed and won the Booker Prize, the youngest woman ever to capture one of the world’s most prestigious literary awards.
Desai, whose mother Anita was three times short listed for the Booker, won the £ 50,000 prize at her first attempt for her sweeping novel,  The Inheritance of Loss.
The extraordinary achievement makes the 35 years old Kiran Desai the youngest woman ever to win the Booker, a distinction previously enjoyed by Arundhati Roy.
In a remarkable act of literary filial devotion, Desai began the task of turning her mother into almost a joint Booker winner even as she accepted the award.
She’s now being compared to her other Booker – winning predecessors from India such as Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things) ans Salman Rushdie (Midnight’s Children).
Desai’s book, The Inheritance of Loss, is a story replete with sadness over globalization and with pleasure at the surviving intimacies of Indian village life.
Kiran Desai was born in India in 1971, she lived in Delhi until she was 14, then spent a year in England, before her family moved to the USA. She completed her schooling in Massachusetts before attending Bennington College; Hollins University and Columbia University, where she studied creative writing, taking two years off to write Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard.
Her mother Anita Desai currently teaches creative writing at MIT. Her maternal grandmother was German, but left before the World War II and never returned. Her grandfather was a refugee from Bangledesh. Her paternal grandparents came from Gujarat, and her grandfather was educated in England. Although Kiran has not lived in India since she was 14, she returns to the family home in Delhi every year.
She first came to literary attention in 1977 when she was published in the New Yorker and in Mirrorwork, an anthology of 50 years of Indian writing edited by Salman Rushdie – Strange Happenings in the Guava Orchard was the closing piece. In 1998, Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, which had taken four years to write, was published to good reviews. She says, “I think my first book was filled with all that I loved most about India and knew I was in the inevitable process of losing. It was also very much a book that came from the happiness of realizing how much I loved to write.”
The Inheritance of Loss is set partly in India and partly in the USA. Desai describes it as a book that “tries to capture what it means to live between East and West and what it means to be an immigrant,” and goes on to say that it also explores at a deeper level, “what happens when a Western element is introduced into a country that is not of the West” – which happened during the British colonial days in India, and is happening again “with India’s new relationship with the States.”
Is writing in her genes or is it an acquired art ? “I think, it’s a combination of both. I’ve practiced the art of writings for years. Yet, I’ve inherited it from my mother. I’ve been inspired and influenced by her writings. Let me tell you, my mother didn’t want me to take writing as a career, for she felt that writers don’t get noticed for years and writing is a lonely exercise. I’m influenced by my mother’s writing. I always read whatever she was reading. And her style of writing grew on me. But I have a very different style. Imagine, we still live in the same house, but I live upstairs and she’s downstairs. Though writing may be an art, it’s been in my blood and environment.”
When you talk to Kiran, she doesn’t have the haughtiness or arrogance of most writers, “I’m a very down-to-earth person. Writing takes most of my time. I do have an extrovert side, I do love a good laugh, but I need to be alone a lot. I need if for my writing.”

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