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Kiran Desai File

November 2006
Kiran Desai File



2 Number of novels she has written.

8 Number of years it took her to write "The Inheritance of Loss," her Booker Prize-winning novel.

15 Age when she left India.

35 Her current age. (She was born on Sept. 3, 1971.)

1,500 Number of pages she had written before whittling "Inheritance" to 300.

50,000 Her prize money in pounds for winning the Booker.

100,000 Number of times she has been referred to as "Anita Desai's daughter."


"I have an Indian passport and given what the political climate has been in the United States, I feel more and more Indian." (Reuters)

"Writing a book is a risk, it takes several years, so much time and you never know how it's going to turn out." (India Today)

"Writing, for me, means humility. It's a process that involves fear and doubt, especially if you're writing honestly. I imagine businessmen feel smug at least twice a day. Writers? The moments are rare." (Rediff)


A resident of Brooklyn, NY, she was born and brought up in India and still spends part of her year there. She attended school in Delhi and Kalimpong, in the Himalayas, before spending a year in England and completing her high school education in Massachusetts. After earning an undergraduate degree in literature from Bennington College, Vermont, in 1993, she went on to study creative writing at Hollins University in Virginia and Columbia University's School of the Arts.

She has a very close relationship with her mother, the acclaimed novelist Anita Desai, who has been short-listed for the Booker Prize three times. ''To my mother, I owe a debt so profound and so great that this book feels as much hers as it does mine,'' Kiran said as she accepted the Booker Prize. ``It was written in her company and in her witness and in her kindness.'' She later told The Independent: "I really completely adore her. I see her face and I completely melt. It's an amazingly close relationship, and usually I talk to her every single day."

She's partly of German descent. "My maternal grandmother was German, left (India) before the war and never returned," she said in a Rediff interview. "My grandfather was a refugee from Bangladesh. On my father's side, my grandparents came from a village in Gujarat."

Her debut novel, "Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard," published in 1998, won a Betty Trask Award, which recognizes the best new novels by citizens of the Commonwealth of Nations.


She enjoys being in the kitchen, but not just to cook. It's also her favorite place to write. "I can constantly make myself little things to eat or cups of tea," she said in an interview with Boldtype, a Random House newsletter. "I find it's the perfect balance, in that I can write a bit, eat a cookie, and then I write a bit more, eat some ice cream. Reward myself – it's constant rewards."

Cooking is one of her favorite tasks. "It's so much a part of my life," she said. "I'm always in the kitchen, cooking and experimenting – I love it. And every now and then I think, ‘I should write a cookbook' or, ‘I should write for food magazines.' And then I get drawn back to writing fiction again. But yes, food is a big part of my life."


Her agent, David Goodwin, also represented Arundhati Roy when she won the Booker Prize in 1997 for "The God of Small Things."

At 35, she is the youngest woman to win the Booker. Roy, at 36, was previously the youngest.

"Inheritance of Loss" was rejected by publishers for more than a year before Hamish Hamilton finally accepted it.



A radio interview of Desai.


A video interview of Desai.

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