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Novelist David Rubin dead

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March 11, 2008 13:27 IST

David Rubin, novelist, translator, and an authority on the literature of India, died on February 2 from a stroke at Roosevelt Hospital. He was 83.

His first novel The Greater Darkness, a novel of India (1963) won the Duff Cooper award as the best first novel published in England [Images] that year.

It was followed in 1965 by Cassio and the Life Divine, and Enough of This Lovemaking, two short novels, in 1970.

Though he continued to write fiction, notably short stories, he then turned his attention to translating works of Indian literature.

In 1969 Premchand's Selected Stories by the great Hindi/Urdu writer appeared, and this was followed in 1976 by A Season on Earth, Selected Poems of Nirala and in 1980 by Nepali Visions, Nepali Dreams, a selection of Nepali poetry.

Not confining himself to Indian literature alone, in 1986 he published his definitive study of the Anglo-Indian novel, After the Raj; British Novels of India since 1947.

Rubin was born March 27, 1924 in Willimantic, Connecticut. His mother was Angel Couchon, a French-Canadian and his father, Max George Rubin, an administrator at the Mansfield Training School in Mansfield, Connecticut.

David grew up speaking English and French. A talented musician, he considered careers as a performer or music critic, but instead turned his attention to the study of language and literature.

In World War II, he served in Army Intelligence from 1943 to 46. A cryptographer, he was stationed in the Azores where he helped to decode messages from Nazi submarines.

After the war he completed his studies at the University of Connecticut, where he received a bachelor's degree, then went on to obtain a master's degree from Brown and a PhD in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia, where he also taught.

In 1960 the first of several Fulbright Fellowships to India proved a turning point in his life. Falling in love with the life and literature of the subcontinent, he applied his uncanny linguistic skills to learning Hindi, Urdu, Nepali, and ultimately Sanskrit, as well as to writing his series of novels about 'passionate pilgrims' in India.

On return he joined the literature faculty at Sarah Lawrence College where he taught for 20 years and retired as faculty emeritus.

He continued teaching Hindi in Columbia's Department of Middle East Languages and Cultures, South Asian Institute.

Over the years he acquired a notable collection of Indian bronzes, some of which he donated to the Brooklyn Museum and the Peabody Essex Museum.

He left his papers to Boston University. He has no survivors. A memorial is planned for him near Columbia University on March 29.


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