October 15, 2008 / 11:20 AM / 10 years ago

FACTBOX-Some of India's leading writers

(Reuters) - First-time Indian novelist Aravind Adiga Tuesday won the Man Booker Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious literary awards, with “The White Tiger.”

Here is a factbox on some of India’s other leading writers:


British Indian author Salman Rushdie shot to fame in 1981 when his second novel, “Midnight’s Children,” a magical-realist exploration of Indian history, won the Booker Prize for Fiction. It also won the “Best of the Booker” prize in 2008, on the 40th anniversary of the award. Rushdie, 61, is best known for his novel “The Satanic Verses,” which outraged many Muslims and prompted death threats that forced him to live in hiding.


Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. Writing both in his native Bengali and in English, he achieved global fame as a poet, but was also a novelist, a playwright, a composer and an artist. Tagore campaigned for the Indian nationalist movement, wrote the national anthems for both India and Bangladesh, and was a close friend of Mahatma Gandhi. He was knighted by the British government in 1915, but resigned the honor to protest against British policies in India. He died in 1941.


Vikram Seth is best known for his 1,300-plus page love story “A Suitable Boy,” about a young girl’s search for a husband in post-independent India. First published in 1993, it is one of the longest English language books ever published. Seth has campaigned for improved gay rights in India, and in 2006 co-wrote an open letter to the Indian government calling for it to overturn a British colonial era law that criminalizes homosexuality.


Kiran Desai is the youngest woman ever to win the Booker Prize, which she won at the age of 35 for the “Inheritance of Loss” in 2006. The book, a tale that examines the darker side of immigration and is set in the Himalayas and New York, took her seven years to write.


Anita Desai, Kiran’s mother, is a three-time Booker Prize finalist, for her novels “Clear Light of Day,” “In Custody” and “Fasting, Feasting.,” but has never won the award. Born in India in 1937, she described writing at the start of her career as a lonely activity, done in secret in between raising her children. She lives in the United States, and spent years teaching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but is now retired.


Arundhati Roy won the 1997 Booker Prize with her first novel, “The God of Small Things,” but since then has confined herself to non-fiction writing. She is one of India’s leading social and environmental activists, campaigning against issues ranging from corporate globalization to the Iraq war. The 46-year-old is currently working on a second novel.


Rohinton Mistry was born in Mumbai in 1952 but emigrated to Canada in 1975. He has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times, for the novels “Family Matters,” “A Fine Balance” and “Such a Long Journey.” A member of the Indian Zoroastrian Parsi community, in 2002 Mistry canceled an American book tour in protest against the “unbearable” racial profiling he underwent at airports in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.


Amitav Ghosh’s latest novel, the “Sea of Poppies” was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 2008. It is set against the backdrop of the opium trade in eastern India and is the story of sailors, convicts and indentured labourers on board a ship headed to Mauritius in 1838. Born in 1956, he has a doctorate from Oxford University and has taught at many universities both in India and in the USA.

Compiled by Matthias Williams; Editing by David Fox

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