Thursday, April 4, 2013

R.I.P. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

This morning I felt a small shock when I read of writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's death at the age of 85. This author's work was among the very first to bring the world of India to Western readers. As someone who grew up in India myself, I still remember reading her best known (a winner of the Booker Prize) novel, "Heat and Dust," published in 1975, and several others of her novels and short story collections. This fiction is full of the sights, sounds, and smells of India, as well as of the United States and other settings. Even more, it often portrays the interweaving of, and sometimes clashes between, various cultures. Because of Jhabvala's own life experience as a person born and raised in Germany, who married an Indian man and lived in India for about 20 years, and then lived in New York, she moved between cultures and often wrote about other "refugees"(her word for herself)/immigrants/world citizens such as herself. She wrote prolifically, including many stories published in the New Yorker. But she became perhaps most well known for her screenplays for the famous Merchant Ivory films. She worked with the late producer Ismail Merchant and the director James Ivory on 22 films in four decades. I love these beautiful films, often based on classic novels by such authors as Henry James and E.M. Forster. They include "A Room with a View," "Howard's End," "The Golden Bowl," "Remains of the Day," and "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge." I want to pay tribute to this wonderful writer who introduced so many people to so many worlds during her long career. (Thanks to the New York Times obituary for some of the information here.)

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