Anita Desai Age, Husband, Children, Family, Biography & More

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Hometown: Mussoorie
Profession: Novelist
Age: 86 Years

Anita Desai

Birth nameAnita Mazumdar (before marriage)
First Novel‘Cry, the Peacock’ (1963)
Awards, Honours, Achievements 1978- Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize for 'Fire on the Mountain'
1978- National Academy of Letters Award for 'Fire on the Mountain'
1980- Booker Prize for Fiction (shortlist) for 'Clear Light of Day'
1983- Guardian Children's Fiction Prize for 'The Village by the Sea: an Indian family story'
1984- Booker Prize for Fiction (shortlist) for 'In Custody'
1993- Neil Gunn Prize
1999- Booker Prize for Fiction (shortlist) for 'Fasting, Feasting'
2000- Alberto Moravia Prize for Literature (Italy)
2007- Sahitya Akademi Fellowship
2003- Benson Medal of Royal Society of Literature
2014- Padma Bhushan
Personal Life
Date of Birth24 June 1937 (Thursday)
Age (as of 2023) 86 Years
BirthplaceMussoorie, British India (now in Uttarakhand, India)
Zodiac signCancer
SignatureAnita Desai's signature
SchoolQueen Mary’s Higher Secondary School, Delhi
College/UniversityMiranda House (University of Delhi), Delhi
Educational QualificationBachelor of Arts in English Literature (1957)
Controversies• In 1990, she attracted controversy after she wrote an essay titled 'A Secret Connivance' for the Times Literary Supplement. In the essay, she wrote that most of the women connive under their own subordination for some set mythic roles. [1]The Guardian

• The character 'Nur Shahjahanabadi' from Anita's novel 'In Custody' (1984) was loosely based on a Pakistani Urdu poet. In 1994, a Bollywood film of the same title was released in which Shashi Kapoor played the role of 'Nur,' a poet living a dissolute life. However, the followers of the Urdu poet got offended by the depiction of the poet both in the novel and the film, resulting in a lot of backlash for Anita. [2]
Relationships & More
Marital StatusWidow
Husband/SpouseAshvin Desai (businessman and an author)
ChildrenSons- 2
• Rahul Desai
• Arjun Desai
Daughters- 2
Kiran Desai (Author)
Kiran Desai
• Tani Desai
ParentsFather- D. N. Mazumdar (Bengali businessman)
Mother- Toni Nime (German immigrant)
SiblingsShe has a brother and 2 sisters.
Poet(s)Rainer Maria Rilke, C. P. Cavafy, Osip Mandelstam, Brodsky

Anita Desai

Some Lesser Known Facts About Anita Desai

  • Anita Desai is an Indian novelist who is famous for her books like ‘Cry, The Peacock’ (1963), ‘Where Shall We Go This Summer?’ (1975), ‘Games at Twilight and Other Stories’ (1978), and ‘The Artist of Disappearance’ (2011).
  • In 1958, an Indian poet P. Lal founded Writers Workshop at his residence in Kolkata’s Lake Gardens along with Anita Desai and other prominent writers including Deb Kumar Das, Sasthibrata Chakravarti, and Jai Ratan. [3]The Hindu
  • Anita Desai started her teaching career in 1993, as a creative writing professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She also held positions like the Elizabeth Drew Visiting Professor at Smith College, the Gildersleeve Professor at Barnard College, the Purington Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College, and a visiting scholar at the Rockefeller Foundation in Bellagio, Italy. From 1993 to 2002, she served as an Emeritus John E. Burchard professor of Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. Anita is settled in the United States and is serving as the Emeritus John E. Burchard Professor of Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. [4]Weissman School of Arts and Sciences
  • From 1977 to 1980, Anita Desai consecutively published novels like ‘Fire on the Mountain,’ ‘Games at Twilight and Other Stories,’ ‘The Peacock Garden,’ and ‘Clear Light of Day.’

    Cover of Anita Desai's novel 'The Peacock Garden' (1979)

    Cover of Anita Desai’s novel ‘The Peacock Garden’ (1979)

  • In 1984, she published a novel titled ‘In Custody,’ which was a novel set in Delhi. The novel was then adapted by Merchant Ivory Productions into an English-language film of the same name, and it starred actors like Shashi Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, and Om Puri. [5]Los Angeles Times

    The poster of the film 'In Custody' (1984), an adaptation of Anita Desai's same-titled novel

    The poster of the film ‘In Custody’ (1984), an adaptation of Anita Desai’s same-titled novel

  • She is well-versed in many languages including German, Bengali, Hindi, and English.
  • She began to read and write in English at the age of seven and published her first novel at the age of nine.
  • Anita Desai’s husband, Ashvin Desai was also an author who published his first novel titled ‘Between Eternities: Ideas on Life and Cosmos’ in 2008; he earlier worked as a director of a software company. [6]Penguin Random House India
  • When Anita Desai’s children were little, she and her husband used to take them to Thal (a place near Alibag), Maharashtra, India, during which she set up her novel ‘The Village By the Sea’ (1982). [7]Toshniwal College
  • Anita’s father had gone to Berlin to study engineering, and that’s when he met a sculptor Goerge Kolbe, who introduced him to Anita’s mother, Toni Nime. [8]The Guardian
  • Anita’s daughter, Kiran Desai, is a 2006 Man Booker Prize winner, and she was also ranked 17th on the list of ‘Global Indian Women: Top 20 India-born & globally successful women from business and arts.’ [9]The Economic Times
  • She has taught at many colleges like Mount Holyoke College (Massachusetts), Baruch College (New York), and Smith College (Massachusetts). Anita Desai is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and of Girton College, Cambridge.
  • Anita Desai is also a writer at ‘The New York Review of Books.’
  • She is the Spring 2003 Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence at Baruch College, New York. [10]Weissman School of Arts and Sciences
  • In 1999, she published ‘Fasting, Feasting,’ and it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for fiction in the same year.

    Cover of Anita Desai's novel 'Fasting, Feasting' (1999)

    Cover of Anita Desai’s novel ‘Fasting, Feasting’ (1999)

  • In 2000, Anita published ‘Diamond Dust and Other Stories,’ followed by ‘The Zigzag Way’ in 2004.

    Cover of Anita Desai's novel 'The Zigzag Way' (2004)

    Cover of Anita Desai’s novel ‘The Zigzag Way’ (2004)

  • In 2011, Anita Desai published a collection of 3 novellas titled ‘The Artist of Disappearance.’ The book includes novels titled ‘The Museum of Final Journeys,’ ‘Translator Translated,’ and ‘The Artist of Disappearance.’

    Cover of Anita Desai's collection of novella 'The Artist of Disappearance' (2011)

    Cover of Anita Desai’s collection of novella ‘The Artist of Disappearance’ (2011)

  • Anita’s mother had a piano, albums of Beethoven and Brahms, and a German library with leather books with German script written in them; however, after Anita’s father’s death, her mother left Delhi and gave all her books to the German department of the Delhi University. When Anita Desai’s husband, Ashvin Desai, passed away in 2020, they donated their family library to Gargi College in Delhi. [11]The Guardian
  • She considered writers like Virginia Woolf, Thomas Hardy, and D.H Lawrence as her biggest influence in writing.
  • In 2015, Anita Desai came in support of the authors and writers who were returning their awards and honours to protest against the Sahitya Akademi for its failure to defend the right of question in descent of authors/writers. [12]The Indian Express