(1927 - 2013)
“One doesn't choose to become a writer. One is just born that way.”

German-born British and American Booker prize-winning novelist, short story writer and two-time Academy Award-winning screenwriter, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala was a true internationalist.  Born into a Polish German Jewish family she spent the first 12 years of her life in Cologne, Germany, but the persecution of Jews led to the family fleeing to Britain in 1939.  All 40 of her father’s family perished in the holocaust, which led to his suicide when he discovered this in 1948.  Arriving as a refugee, Ruth immersed herself in the literature of her adopted country and graduated in English Literature from Queen Mary College, London University. Asked later if she had happy memories of England, she said: "If it weren't for England, I wouldn't have any memories at all."

In 1951, she married Cyrus Jhabvala, a Parsee architect whom she had met in London, and went to live with him in Delhi. She immediately plunged in "total immersion" into India, her early writings dwelling on the themes of romantic love and arranged marriages and are portraits of the social mores, idealism and chaos of the early decades of independent India, all of which are encapsulated in her first novel, To Whom She Will, published in 1955.  However her passionate love for India transmuted into an equally passionate dislike and in the mid 1970s she moved continents again and settled in New York. Here she lived in an apartment near the film makers Merchant and Ivory, with whom she had been collaborating as a screen writer since 1962, when they had asked her to produce a film script for her novel The Householder, a social satire of contemporary Delhi.

Her later work frequently portrays the complex lives of those immigrants whose rootlessness was engendered by post war Europe, and influenced by her own migratory life.  In a rare comment about herself,  she said “I stand before you as a writer without any ground of being out of which to write: really blown about from country to country, culture to culture till I feel - till I am - nothing. As it happens, I like it that way.”

Her many literary awards included the 1975 Booker prize for her eighth novel, Heat and Dust. 

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