Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Additional Biography


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (jahb-VAH-lah) was born on May 7, 1927, in Cologne, Germany, the daughter of a Polish Jewish lawyer, Marcus Prawer, and his wife Leonara. She wrote her first stories in German, but when the family emigrated to England in 1939, she soon started writing in English. She was aware from a very young age of being an expatriate in England, and this feeling of isolation was heightened in her adult life when she lived in India for about twenty-five years.

Ruth Prawer grew up in England, receiving her M.A. degree in English from the University of London while she tried her hand at fiction writing. She met a young Indian architect, Cyrus Jhabvala, married him, and in 1951, left England to make her home in India.

The first stage of Jhabvala’s experience in India, which excited and enraptured her, included the birth of her three daughters and the publication of four novels, To Whom She Will (1955; published in the United States as Amrita, 1956), The Nature of Passion (1956), Esmond in India (1958) and The Householder (1960). The large circle of her husband’s Indian friends and acquaintances provided Jhabvala with continued opportunities to observe Indian life at very close quarters; the results of this experience are seen in her novels and stories. Since she is always the outsider in India, she also realistically re-creates the tensions and conflicts that arise when Indians and Westerners interact.

Jhabvala sees the conflicts between Indians and Westerners as being rooted in the complexities of culture, history, and psychology, rather than in the more obvious and superficial difference of color. After her first stage of rapture about India was over, Jhabvala visited England briefly in 1960...

(The entire section is 729 words.)