Anita Desai - Summary

Topics: Novel, Fiction, Literature Pages: 5 (1968 words) Published: July 2, 2013
Anita Desai: Biography
Anita Desai (born 1937) has been touted by "British Writers'" A. Michael Matin as "one of the preeminent contemporary Indian novelists," even referred to by many as the Mother of the Indian psychological novel genre. Her meticulous depictions of modern Indian life, combined with an elevated level of linguistic skill that frequently enters the poetic realm, have secured her a place of honor in the pantheon of Indian authors. Early Life

Anita Desai was born on June 24, 1937, in the hill station of Mussoorie, Uttar Pradesh, India. She was one of four children: she had a brother and two sisters, all raised in what was a British colony in their youth. Desai's father D.N. Mazumdar was a Bengali engineer. Her mother, Toni Nimé, was German and met Mazumdar in Germany, then emigrated to India in the 1920s. Desai has said that it was exposure to her mother's European core that allowed her to experience India as both an insider, and an outsider. Although Desai was formally educated in English, she was raised speaking both Hindi and German in her home in Old Delhi. She attributes some of the diversity of her fictional characters to having lived among a mix of Hindu, Muslim, and Christian neighbors while growing up. In the 1996 Contemporary Novelists, Desai revealed to critic Bruce King that she began writing early, saying, "I have been writing since the age of seven, as instinctively as I breathe." At the age of nine, she began her publishing career when a submission she made to an American children's magazine was accepted and published. At the age of ten, Desai had a life - changing experience as she watched her society ripped apart by the violence born of the Hindu - Muslim conflict during the division of British India into the nations of India and Pakistan. Her Muslim classmates and friends disappeared without explaination, all of them fleeing from Hindu violence. British Writers' Matin described how the "stupefying bloodshed and violence . . . erupt[ing] from the dream of independence" informed the tone of her early fiction. Education

Desai's formal education was in the English language, and her writing was always in English as a result. She attended British grammar schools, then Queen Mary's Higher Secondary School in New Delhi. She was accepted at Miranda House, an elite women's college in Delhi, and in 1957 at the age of 20 she received a B.A. with Honors in English Literature from Delhi University. Already hard on the heels of her dream of being a writer, she published her first short story the same year she graduated, in 1957. Desai continued to compose and publish short fiction, working for a year in Calcutta and marrying business executive Ashvin Desai on December 13, 1958. They had four children, sons Rahul and Arjun, and daughters Tani and Kiran. Life as a Writer

While raising her children, Desai maintained her efforts as an author, and completed her early novels while her family grew. The Desais lived in Calcutta from 1958 to 1962, then moved to Bombay, Chandigarh, Delhi, and Poona. Each new location provided an additional rich back - drop for the young author's fiction. Desai became a freelance writer in 1963, and has retained this as her occupation ever since. She addressed her craft in the King interview, "[Writing] is a necessity to me: I find it is in the process of writing that I am able to think, to feel, and to realize at the highest pitch. Writing is to me a process of discovering the truth." Desai contributed to various prestigious literary publications, including the New York Times Book Review, London Magazine, Harper's Bazaar and Quest. Her first novel, Cry, the Peacock (1963), was published when she was 26 years old. In 1965 she published her second novel, Voices in the City, which revealed Calcutta as seen by a group of aristocratic siblings, and she left India for the first time to visit England. While in Europe, Desai gathered material for her third novel, Bye - Bye,...
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