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Pankaj Mishra  [ India ]

Biography

Guest 2009, 2011.

Pankaj Mishra was born in Jhansi in Northern India in 1969 and grew up in Uttar Pradesh. After studying business at the University of Allahabad, he graduated in English Literature from the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. Subsequently he moved to Mashobra, a small town in the foothills of the Himalayas. Here he devoted himself to reading and writing articles and reviews for newspapers such as »The Indian Review of Books«, »The India Magazine« and »the pioneer«. He also worked as the chief editor of Harper Collins. One of his achievements was to recognize the potential of Arundhati Roy’s novel »The God of Small Things« and recommend it to a British agent. He became known for his début work »Butter Chicken in Ludhiana« (1995), an account of a journey through provincial India. His autobiographical essay »Edmund Wilson in Benares«, published in »The New York Review of Books« in 1998, marked the beginning of an active role as a political commentator and literary critic for international English language newspapers and magazines, including the »Times Literary Supplement«, the »New York Times«, the »Guardian« and the »The Financial Times«.
The small-scale consequences of globalisation and the inextricably linked influences of East and West are central themes in Mishra’s works, which make use of a number of different genres. Often the treatment of Western culture and literature creates an understanding of the East – as shown by the author’s own education, which alongside other autobiographical elements is reflected in his works. In depicting his own experiences, he creates a complex picture of Asia, undermining simplistic ideas, stereotypes and distorted images, whether of the West, the East or of modernity in general. This demonstrates his drive to observe and criticize society. Mishra’s first novel, »The Romantics« (1999), tells the story of a young, unsure Indian intellectual’s development towards maturity triggered by meeting a group of Western tourists on a voyage of self-discovery. The portrayal of the Buddha’s life and work in »An End to Suffering« (2004) is partly based on the author’s experiences while reading about this inspirational figure in the writings of western intellectuals such as Nietzsche and Claude Levi-Strauss.
Since the publication of »Temptations of the West« (2006) – a travelogue on the consequences of the pressures of modernisation in Kashmir, Northern India, Pakistan, Afganistan, Tibet and Nepal – Mishra has been working on his second novel. He has taught at Wellesley College and was a visiting fellow at University College, London. He has also been a fellow at the Cullmen Center for Scholars and Writers, received a grant from the New York Public Library and was a fellow of the renowned Royal Society of Literature. Mishra lives in London and Mashobra.

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