Kiran Desai is a distinguished Indian novelist and author who received recognition worldwide with her two novels named ‘Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard’ that led her to win ‘the Betty Trask Award’ in 1998, and ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ that bestowed her the 2006 “The Booker Award.” She also earned the National Book Critics Circle Fiction Award for respective novels.
Kiran Desai was born on Friday, 3 September 1971 (age 50 years; as of 2021) in Chandigarh, India. Her zodiac sign is Virgo. Her hometown is Delhi, India. She procured her school education at Cathedral and John Connon School, Mumbai. In 1993, she received her graduate degree at Bennington College (a private liberal arts college in Bennington, Vermont, USA), and later, she pursued M.F.A in creative writing at Hollins University, a private university in Hollins, Virginia, US, and Columbia University, New York, USA.
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
Kiran Desai’s father, Ashvin Desai is an Indian author. Her mother’s name is Anita Desai, and she is an Indian novelist and the Professor of Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Her grandfather’s name is D. N. Mazumdar, who was a Bengali businessman, and her grandmother’s name is Toni Nime, who was a German expatriate. Kiran Desai is the youngest of her three siblings, two brothers and a sister.
Husband & Children
Kiran Desai is unmarried.
Kiran Desai is in a relationship with a Turkish novelist, screenwriter, academic and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature, Orhan Pamuk.
In 1998, Kiran Desai released her first novel, ‘Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard,’ and won the Betty Trask Award, and she was listed among the youngest female writers to win this prize across the world. The Betty Trask Award is awarded to those who are under the age of 35, and it is accorded by the Society of Authors for best new novels. The Society of Authors is a United Kingdom trade union award for professional writers, illustrators and literary translators, which was founded in 1884.
‘The Inheritance of Loss,’ the second novel published by Kiran Desai in 2006. This novel was widely acknowledged and applauded by critics in the countries including the United States of America, Asia and Europe. Kiran Desai won the 2006 Booker Prize for the novel ‘The Inheritance of Loss.’ For the same novel, she earned the National Book Critics Circle Fiction Award, concurrently.
Kiran Desai was honoured with the ‘Berlin Prize Fellowship’ by the American Academy in Berlin, Germany, in 2013. In January 2015, Kiran Desai was listed as one of 20 “most influential” global Indian women by The Economic Times.
- Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, the first novel by Kiran Desai published in 1998.
- The Inheritance of Loss, the second novel by Kiran Desai published in 2006.
- Generation 1. 5, a book written by Kiran Desai along with the writers, Suketu Mehta and Tom Finkelpearl.
Awards, Honours, Achievements
She received the ‘Man Booker Prize’ in 2006 for the novel ‘The Inheritance of Loss,’ and the ‘Betty Trask Award’ in 1998 for the book ‘Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard.’
- Kiran Desai’s musical choices are – Bach played by Glenn Gould and Pablo Casals to two masters of the guitar, three contrasting pieces of Indian music, and the Cape Verdean singer Cesaria Evora.
- Kiran Desai follows a non-vegetarian diet.
- Kiran Desai is titled as the youngest female writer to win the ‘Booker Prize award.’
- Several notable Indian writers and authors sent accolades for her novel, Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, when it won the ‘Betty Trask Award’ in 1998 including Salman Rushdie, who praised Kiran Desai on her winning.
- When “Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard” was published in 1998, simultaneously, Kiran Desai received a masters degree in M.F.A in creative writing at Columbia University, USA.
- According to Kiran, her father and siblings influenced her writings to a great extent. In an interview, she declared that her father had already predicted that her book “The Inheritance of Loss” would win the Booker Award. She expressed that she met her father before leaving for the award ceremony in New York, and her father affirmed the same thing again to her. She clarified the incident,
I am asked why I never mention my father. It’s because everyone asks about my mother. I have two brothers and a sister and we talk a lot. I see my father every year and I stay in his house while in Delhi. He is my closest link to India and what it means to me. In January, when the first publication of The Inheritance of Loss was out, he was the first person who said, “I predict this book will win the Booker Prize. I have read the works of most of the Booker Prize winners through the years and this has everything for a Booker Prize.” I met him in New York before leaving for the awards, and he said the same thing again.”
- Kiran Desai attended, Private Passions, a biographical musical discussion programme on BBC Radio 3 in August 2008 with the host of the program, Michael Berkeley.
- According to Kiran Desai, she published ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ after more than seven years of working on it in 2006. In an interview, Kiran said while writing her novels, she was mentally harming herself while isolating herself from the real world. She further added that she did not see any human being at all for a long period of time during writing the books. She indicated that she was scared of answering the phone and talking to people. She delineated,
Absolutely. I was convinced that I was mentally harming myself. I was so isolated in certain periods. For instance, last year around this time I didn’t see any human being at all for large periods of time. I went to my mother’s for two or three months to pull it all together and work really hard. Other than her, I didn’t see anyone for two or three months. I was literally scared of answering the phone, of talking to people. I was scared of the mailman coming to the door because I found it even hard to talk.”
- In an interview, Kiran was asked what kind of emotions aroused in her heart while reading her own book ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ because it included very personal writings. Kiran Desai then replied that it was easy to criticise your own writings than anyone else. She unfolded very finely,
It is and that makes it harder. You can criticise your stuff better than anyone else, you know what is going in your own mind and your own heart but to look at yourself in the mirror is very difficult.”
- In an interview, Salman Rushdie said that Kiran Desai and her mother, Anita Desai, had contrasting styles of writing. He was a family friend of the Desai family. She spelt out,
Anita is a deceptively quiet writer. Kiran is a little bit showier as a writer. There is a little more flamboyance in the prose.”
- Kiran Desai was 16 when her parents separated, and her mother shifted to America with her. Kiran received her initial school education from a convent school in Kalimpong, West Bengal, India, where the Desai family had a summer home.
- In America, Kiran attended high school in Amherst, Massachusetts. Initially, Kiran was enrolled at Bennington College, USA as she aimed to be a scientist; however, she opted for writing classes as her field of study.
- Kiran Desai took admission at Hollins College in Virginia, USA, for pursuing her higher studies. During her graduation from Hollins College, in the writing program, she began writing her first novel, “Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard.”
- In an interview, Kiran Desai said that her first novel “Inheritance in Loss” took seven years to complete, and several England publishing houses rejected it ten times to publish it. She further stated that she isolated herself from the world while writing her first novel. She unfolded,
Taking seven years of my being determinedly isolated. It almost didn’t get published in England. The British said it didn’t work. Nearly 10 houses rejected it until Hamish Hamilton bought it.”
- According to Kiran Desai, after winning the Booker prize, the practical difference it made in her life was that she came to know that she could write well in the future on other books too. She revealed,
Well, really just that I know I can write! Also, the book is selling much more than before. Also, more pirated copies than before!”
- ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ was released in 2006, and Kiran Desai and her book were opposed by the people in Kalimpong, West Bengal. She encountered the rumours about her book-burning and protests. In her book ‘The Inheritance of Loss,” she illustrated the town, Kalimpong and its people, especially the Nepalese majority. According to Kiran, she faced lots of criticism for her novel and ultimately, offended herself through freedom of speech right. She revealed,
I thought my portrayal was sympathetic. But when you write about a certain group of people, the old argument immediately surfaces: do you have an obligation to portray someone in a heroic way? Of course, you don’t. It really comes down to free speech in the end – if you believe in that, you have to accept things. I mean, I get loads of criticism all the time and I could just as easily be offended by that.”
- In 2014, Kiran Desai, along with her mother and author Anita Desai, attended The Times of India Literary Carnival at Bandra’s Mehboob Studio, Mumbai.
- In 2014, through a video interview, Kiran Desai opened up with her master plan and approaches she opted in the course of writing her novels. Additionally, she counselled and guided the budding writers in the video interview.
- Anita Desai and Kiran Desai, world-renowned mother-daughter novelists, were honoured by the National Library of Israel, Jerusalem, Israel on 8 May 2016. Kiran and Anita actively attended the event.
- In 2011, Kiran Desai shared her experiences through a video on her real-life experiences while writing her novel “The inheritance of Loss” that ultimately lead her to win the “Man Booker Award.”
- In 2018, at the Singapore Writers Festival, Kiran Desai along with the Scottish author Irvine Welsh and more than 390 writers and speakers, participated the event. Reportedly, it was a record that more than 390 writers and speakers participated in this event.
- Reportedly, various quotes related to her personal life experiences have been written by Kiran Desai as she is regarded as a quiet writer.
- According to Kiran Desai, writing was her priority and most of her life was about writing. She revealed that she had to fight to put up this habit of writing that eventually led her to wake up in the morning and went straight to her writing desk without any second thought in mind. She elucidated,
By now I’ve been working this way for decades. Writing has been my major activity, and while we were talking earlier about political movements and my feeling the need to become more involved, most of my life is about writing life. I had to fight hard to acquire the habit, and then eventually I could wake up in the morning and go straight to my desk without thinking about it. My life took on the rhythm of quiet.”
Furthermore, Kiran said that most of the writers had families and kids, and they had teaching and vacation life but she did not have the same. She focused on the point that writing was her life, and she was transferring her life into her writings. She remarked,
I work in the morning, I take a short break in the afternoon, and I usually work in the evening as well. I may take a night or two off, here and there, but mostly I work both times. So I have been over-successful, I would say, in transferring my life into my writing. Real-life is less vivid to me than the world of my work. The sacrifice, though, is huge. Most writers have families, and they have kids, and they have a teaching life, and they have a vacation life. I don’t. I have written. Writing is my life. So it’s been great for my work and probably not so good for my life.”
- According to Kiran, her favourite writers were Ichiguru, Kenzaburo Oe, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Narayan, and her most liked book was Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo. In an interview, she said that she read a lot of poetry. She stated,
I read all different kinds of books, but I like Ichiguru’s work a lot and Kenzaburo Oe, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Narayan. One of my favourite books is Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo, which I read over and over again. I also read a lot of poetry.”
- According to Kiran Desai, American writers influenced her writings too. She stated in an interview that she loved Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, and Flannery O’Connor. She said,
Yes, definitely. I love Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Flannery O’Connor. I read a lot of American writers. The publishing world is growing smaller, which is very nice.”