Anita Desai (b.1937) – formerly Anita Mazumdar
Indian novelist and short story writer, especially noted for her sensitive portrayal of the inner life of her female characters. Several of Desai's novels explore tensions between family members and the alienation of middle-class women. In her later novels Desai has dealt with such themes as German anti-Semitism, the demise of traditions, and Western stereotypical views of India. "Even though his cigarette stank - it was a local one, wrapped in a tendu leaf, fierce enough to make his head swim - he could smell the distinctive Indian odour - of dung, both of cattle and men, of smoke from the village hearts, of cattle food and cattle urine, of dust, of pungent food cooking, of old ragged clothes washed without soap and put out to dry, the aroma of poverty." (from Baumgartner's Bombay, 1988)
Anita Desai was born in Mussoorie, a hill station north of Delhi, as the daughter of a D.N. Mazumdar, a Bengali businessman, and the former Toni Nime, of German origin. She began to write in English at the age of seven, and published her first story at the age of nine. Desai was educated in Delhi at Queen Mary's Higher Secondary School and Miranda House, Delhi University, where she received in 1957 a B.A. in English literature. In the following year she married Ashvin Desai, a businessman; they had four children. Desai writes in English, saying, "I first learned English when I went to school. It was the first language that I learned to read and write, so it became my literary language. Languages tend to proliferate around one in India, and one tends to pick up and use whatever is at hand. It makes one realize each language has its own distinct genius." Her family spoke German at home and Hindi to their friends. The author's characters in many novels are members of the Anglicized Indian bourgeoisie, whose marital problems are in the forefront. Her characters often adopt escapist ways to cope with the boring everyday life or world...
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