Author Anita Desai books that remain unknown to Indians

Simple, middle class family stories with layered characters

Born Anita Mazumdar, Indian novelist Anita Desai published her first novel, Cry The Peacock, in 1963. Later her 1984 book In Custody narrating the story of an Urdu poet in and his declining days along with the story of a school teacher. This book was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Desai considers Clear Light of Day her most autobiographical work as the story narrates a story set during the time of the author’s coming of age and in the same neighborhood where she grew up.

Clear Light of the Day
With the backdrop setting of Old Delhi, this novel narrates the story of trials and tribulations of familial love. This is considered to be Desai’s tender, warm, and compassionate novel about family scars and the sheer ability to forgive and forget in that love. Through Das’s family, the author shows the moving relationships between the members of the family, who in the process had grown apart from each other.

Fasting Feasting
In the end, the author’s characters in her narration are but human. Through her words themselves, Desai makes the characters awkward, shy, boisterous and most often someone who just wants to live their lives cocooned without any interference from the world, making them so not of this current time making the road transport to a world they want to provide the necessary calm and quiet.

Fire on The Mountain
The old Nanda Kul has now chosen to spend the rest of her life up high in the mountains in the small town of Kasauli. As she settles in her life and solitude is disturbed with the arrival of her great-granddaughter, Raka. Through the long hot summer, hidden dependencies and old wounds are uncovered, until tragedy becomes inevitable. The two are of the opinion that they are different from each other, until their similarities come out to the surface bringing along hurt, pain, kindness, and the end only lasting in tragedy.

In Custody
With the subtle portrayal of human nature, Desai’s In Custody brings to fore a close intimate portrait of lives of common people impacted by the quest for identity and purpose. Deven, a Hindi lecturer in small-town Mirpore, his chance to interview India’s greatest living Urdu poet Nur offers him an escape from his mundane life.

Desai has been the Emerita John E. Burchard Professor of Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has also been shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times. She has received a Sahitya Akademi Award in 1978 for her novel Fire on the Mountain and also won the British Guardian Prize for The Village by the Sea.

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