Literature (2019 | Issue 2)

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INDO-GERMAN
LITERARY TIES

Continuing with their cultural affinity, India and Germany have a close literary bond. There are Indian writers who have a strong connection with Germany and German writers with a strong connection to India. What’s Up, Germany? takes a look at some modern-day affiliations.

GERMAN WRITERS WITH INDIAN LINKS

Ulla Lenze

This award-winning German author came to India at the age of 16. She immediately fell in love with the country and even learnt the sitar, Marathi and yoga. Though she returned to Germany, she kept coming back. Her first novel, Schwester und Bruder (2003, Sister and Brother), tells the story of a brother backpacking in India, who shares stories about his time there with his sister. Her second book, Archanu (2008), is based on her stay in Auroville. In her 2015 book, Die endlose Stadt (The Endless City), she features three cities: Mumbai, Istanbul and Berlin.

Christopher Kloeble

A German novelist and scriptwriter, Christopher Kloeble lives in New Delhi and Berlin. His first book translated into English, Meistens alles sehr schnell: Roman (2012, Almost Everything Very Fast: A Novel), tells the story of a 19-year-old boy in search of his roots. Kloeble’s non-fiction book, Home made in India: Eine Liebesgeschichte zwischen Delhi und Berlin (2017, Home Made in India: A Love Story Between Delhi and Berlin), is about his life in both cities, and the cultural stereotypes he encounters. Makes for interesting reading!

Roswitha Joshi

German author Roswitha Joshi moved to Delhi after marrying an Indian. She regards India as a land of contrasts and powerful stories. A former employee of the German Embassy New Delhi, she took to full-time writing in 1999. She loves India’s people, climate and culture. All her books are based on her personal experiences: Life is Peculiar: A Collection Of Anecdotes (2003), On the Rocks and Other Stories (2004), Once More! A Novel (2006) and Trapped in Want and Wonder (2016). What’s interesting is, there are always two trains of thought in her stories: one Indian and another German!

INDIAN WRITERS WITH GERMAN LINKS

Vikram Seth

Seth’s Two Lives (2005) is a memoir based on the lives of his great-uncle, Shanti Behari Seth, and his German- Jewish wife, Hennerle Gerda Caro. As a 17-year-old student, Vikram went to live with them in London. He became the son they never had. For this book, Seth interviewed his uncle many times, but his great-aunt had already passed away. The discovery of an old box full of letters written by her family came to the rescue!

Anita Desai

Born to a Bengali father and a German mother, novelist Anita Desai grew up speaking German, Hindi and English. She lived in India most of her life before moving to the United States in 1987. Though she experiences India both as an insider and outsider, the country is her inspiration. Desai has penned 17 books and has been a Booker Prize finalist three times! Her novels include Clear Light of Day (1980), In Custody (1984), Baumgartner’s Bombay (1988) and Fasting, Feasting (1999).

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

Born in Cologne in 1927, this German-Jewish novelist and screenwriter fled to England in 1939. She married an Indian and moved to New Delhi in 1951, where she lived for 24 years before moving to the United States. She passed away in 2013, but left behind a rich legacy. Her novel Heat and Dust (1975) won the Booker Prize and her screen adaptation won a BAFTA. Jhabvala also wrote 23 original screenplays and adaptations for Merchant-Ivory, including EM Forster’s A Room with a View (1985) and Howards End (1992); and Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day (1993).

Raj Kamal Jha & Kiran Nagarkar

Both writers were selected as writers-in-residence by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Jha’s novel Fireproof debuted in German at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2006. Novelist and screenwriter Kiran Nagarkar was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Alokeranjan Dasgupta

This distinguished Bengali poet made Germany his home. He taught at the South Asia Institute (SAI) of Heidelberg University for many years and has authored more than 20 collections of poetry. Dasgupta has also translated Bengali literature into German and German texts into Bengali. No wonder he was won several literary awards!