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Kiran Desai bags US literary prize
Dharam Shourie in New York | March 09, 2007 11:49 IST
Last Updated: March 09, 2007 13:04 IST
India-born novelist Kiran Desai's bestseller novel The Inheritance of Loss has bagged yet another literary honour -- the National Book Critics Circle fiction award.
The book has already won the prestigious Man Booker Prize for literary excellence and is among the finalists for the Kiriyama Prize.
Desai was competing with four other finalists: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun, Dave Eggers' What is the What, Richard Ford's The Lay of the Land and Cormac McCarthy's The Road.
Reviewing the book, the New York Times had written that although it focuses on the fate of a few powerless individuals, Desai's extraordinary new novel manages to explore, with intimacy and insight, just about every contemporary international issue: globalisation, multiculturalism, economic inequality, fundamentalism and terrorist violence.
Despite being set in the mid-1980's, it seems the best kind of post-9/11 novel.
The Inheritance of Loss opens with a teenage Indian girl, an orphan called Sai, living with her Cambridge-educated Anglophile grandfather, a retired judge, in the town of Kalimpong on the Indian side of the Himalayas.
Sai is romantically involved with her math tutor, Gyan, the descendant of a Nepali Gurkha mercenary, but he eventually recoils from her obvious privilege and falls in with a group of ethnic Nepalese insurgents.
In a parallel narrative, the book shows the life of Biju, the son of Sai's grandfather's cook, who belongs to the "shadow class" of illegal immigrants in New York and spends much of his time dodging the authorities, moving from one ill-paid job to another.
Desai was born in New Delhi and spent her first years in India before moving to Britain at the age of 14. A year later, she relocated to the United States where she completed her schooling and later attended Bennington College, Hollins University and Columbia University, where she studied creative writing, taking two years off to write Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard.
Talking of the characters in the novel and of her own life, she says, "The characters of my story are entirely fictional, but these journeys (of her grandparents) as well as my own provided insight into what it means to travel between East and West is what I wanted to capture. The fact that I live this particular life is no accident. It was my inheritance."