Rohinton Mistry Analysis

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Rohinton Mistry is known primarily for his novels, but he began his writing career as a short-story writer, publishing the collection Tales from Firozsha Baag in 1987. Like his novels, his short stories focus on life in India, specifically Bombay (now Mumbai). However, three of the published stories, including “Squatter,” about the difficulty an immigrant from Bombay has in adapting to Western toilet customs, deal with the immigrant experience in Canada, something not dealt with in his long fiction, which focuses entirely on life in India.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Rohinton Mistry won acclaim with his very first writings, two short stories he entered into literary competitions in Canada (the 1983 and 1984 Hart House Literary Prizes), both of which took first prize. In 1985, he won the annual Contributor’s Award from Canadian Fiction Magazine. He continued to receive honors when he turned to longer fiction. His first novel, Such a Long Journey, won the Canadian Governor-General’s Award for fiction, the W. H. Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award, and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize; it was also short-listed for the Booker Prize in England, as were both of his next two novels. In 1998, Such a Long Journey was made into a film of the same title.

In 2001, talk-show host Oprah Winfrey chose Mistry’s second novel, A Fine Balance, as one of her featured book-club works, and Mistry appeared on her show; the book then sold an additional one-half million copies. A Fine Balance also won the Giller Prize for the best Canadian novel of 1995, the 1996 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and the 1996 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction. In 1996, Mistry was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Ottawa.

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Which of Rohinton Mistry’s characters are meant to be viewed as models of human behavior?

How does Mistry define a community? What are the advantages of strong communal ties?

Do the arranged marriages in Mistry’s novels seem to be successful? Why or why not?

How does a corrupt government affect the lives of characters in Mistry’s novels?

How do religious beliefs affect the lives of Mistry’s characters?


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Dodiya, Jaydipsinh, ed. The Fiction of Rohinton Mistry: Critical Studies. London: Sangam, 1998. A comprehensive look at the man and his works.

Morey, Peter. Fictions of India: Narrative and Power. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000. This critical study of Indic fiction in English includes bibliographical references and an index.

World Literature Today 73, no. 2 (Spring, 1999): 239. Article offers an informative critical essay on Mistry and his early fiction, with a valuable works cited page.