Her latest book, The Artist of Disappearance, blends irony, sympathy and a clear-eyed criticism of contemporary culture, in three novellas that explore the frailty and transforming power of art.
Maggie Gee has praised the way Desai’s work hides ‘devastating criticisms of the status quo just beneath the jeweled seduction of her surfaces’.
With influences as diverse as Virginia Woolf and Rilke, her books chronicle ‘forgotten, vanishing worlds, art and language that exist on the margins’, in the words of her daughter (and Booker winner) Kiran Desai.
The India of Anita Desai’s childhood transformed after Partition; later she left for new homes in England and the United States, though India remains her canvas.
This experience, she believes, led her to become a writer – to make sense of a fractured world. ‘It’s like having a jigsaw puzzle and having to see how to put the pieces together.’
Anita Desai appears as part of a double-bill with William Dalrymple. (rodneyvc)