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Anita Desai

Author of Fasting, Feasting

34+ Works 4,060 Members 110 Reviews 12 Favorited

About the Author

Anita Desai was born in Mussoorie, India, in 1937 of Indian and German parentage. Her works focus on relationships and family life in India, particularly the problems of women in Indian society. She has written for both adults and children, winning the Winifred Holtby Prize from the Royal Society show more of Literature for Fire on the Mountain (1977) and the Guardian Prize for Children's Fiction for her novel The Village by the Sea (1982). Among her numerous other honors is a Literary Lion Award from the New York Public Library in 1993. Desai came to America in 1987. She has taught at Mount Holyoke College, Baruch College, and Smithe College. Desai is currently Emeritus John E. Burchard Professor of Humanities at MIT. (Bowker Author Biography) Anita Desai was born & educated in India. Among her many published works are "Fasting, Feasting" (a finalist for the 1999 Booker Prize), "Baumgartner's Bombay," "In Custody," "Games at Twilight," & "Diamond Dust." Her awards & honors include the Alberto Moravia Award, the National Academy of Letters Award, & the Winifred Holtby Prize of the Royal Society of Literature. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she teaches writing at MIT. (Publisher Provided) show less

Works by Anita Desai

Associated Works

Midnight's Children (1981) — Introduction, some editions — 13,607 copies
Agnes Grey (1847) — Introduction, some editions — 4,972 copies
The Battle of the Villa Fiorita (1963) — Introduction, some editions — 315 copies
The River (1946) — Introduction, some editions — 295 copies
Bad Trips (1991) — Contributor — 231 copies
Granta 57: India! The Golden Jubilee (1997) — Contributor — 200 copies
Sunlight on a Broken Column (1961) — Introduction, some editions — 186 copies
The Post Office (1968) — Introduction, some editions — 119 copies
The Penguin Book of International Women's Stories (1996) — Contributor — 112 copies
Kingdom of Olives and Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation (2017) — Contributor — 110 copies
Story-Wallah: Short Fiction from South Asian Writers (2004) — Contributor — 96 copies
The Lady and the Unicorn (1937) — Introduction, some editions — 75 copies
The Oxford Book of Travel Stories (1996) — Contributor — 74 copies
The Secret Self: A Century of Short Stories by Women (1995) — Contributor — 32 copies
Women: A World Report (1985) — Contributor — 30 copies
The Second Penguin Book of Modern Women's Short Stories (1997) — Contributor — 25 copies
Guardian Angels (1987) — Contributor — 11 copies
Passages: 24 Modern Indian Stories (Signet Classics) (2009) — Contributor — 10 copies
In Custody [1994 film] — Original book — 1 copy


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Common Knowledge



This novel broke me - utterly and completely. The cover says that if the Booker Prize committee of 1999 could award a runner-up, they would have given it to this novel - I can't even imagine how the winner for that year could be any better than this masterpiece.
This work follows two PoVs - both taking place in an extremely orthodox household. The first is that of Uma, a staid spinster who can't get married, and so people treat her as a cursed woman who shouldn't exist, to put it politely. The second is that of Arun, Uma's brother, who succumbs to the weight of expectations that people have of the 'solitary working male' of the household, and tried to recede into anonymity in all the facets of his life.
Following the household through Uma's eyes is a depressing and dreary affair, what with overbearing parents, apathetic siblings, her epileptic seizures dismissed as her need for attention, and an eclectic cocktail of family members. Some of the euphemisms in the novel feel as if Anita Desai is lifting the incidents from your household - and are all the more painful for it.
Arun is another highly relatable character for many - a person, who by virtue of his excessive smothering at home, just wants to be left alone - but even in the States, he cannot find such peace. Although his part in the novel forms the basis for just the last quarter of the book, it is no less significant for it.
I've not read either mother (Kiran Desai) or daughter before this, so this novel came as a pleasant surprise. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that a dreary slice-of-life drama following a conservative household could be so heartbreaking. This is *the* quintessential short read, and deserves a much higher rating on the site.
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SidKhanooja | 22 other reviews | Sep 1, 2023 |
No wonder she’s been Booker-listed three times! The story of a young Jewish man from Germany who goes to India in the late 1930s, ostensibly for business reasons, and spends the rest of his life there. The book is the story of his life there, spent in increasing poverty. Memory is a major theme; I thought the writing is very good and her observations quite keen. I read a number of her works long ago and don’t know why I stopped. She is a terrific writer and, more than that, her books are solid creations, well worth the time. Highly recommended.… (more)
Gypsy_Boy | 6 other reviews | Aug 25, 2023 |
[The Zig Zag Way] was an appropriate title for this book in that it told the story of a cast of characters from various points of view. While it was well written and enjoyable to read, I found its point elusive.
snash | 8 other reviews | Jun 23, 2023 |
International boundaries don't keep out dysfunctional and estranged families. Not that that's news but we do have the fantasy that it must be better somewhere other than here. Desai shows us that's not true. Even in India where family seems much more central than here families can grow apart. What might have worked in an earlier age does not seem to prevent things from spinning out of control. With India there are even more questions. How does their history of control by Britain, their history of Hindu and Muslim clashing, and their overwhelming heat add to the picture. Are they causal or just coincidental? They are all over every aspect of this story and ever present but Desai does not seem to see a connection. Or did I miss something? What Desai never mentions is the caste system but the servants are ever present and definitely looked down on upon from what is apparently a middle class situation. The central character is the sister who in her younger days seemed like the one most likely to take off on her own but now is the one who never leaves. Her brother and sister have fled in different directions but she stays behind to care for the developmentally challenged younger brother. She resents her older brother leaving her behind and her sister who opted, as expected, for her dream of getting married and having kids. Can they all get it together and bury the hatchets. That's the entire story. If you enjoy reading about that this book will show how that can happen even in another culture. Learning about the Indian culture was the part that made this interesting.… (more)
Ed_Schneider | 21 other reviews | Apr 2, 2023 |



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