Anita Desai’s latest book, The Artist of Disappearance, blends irony, sympathy and a clear-eyed criticism of contemporary culture, in three novellas that explore the frailty and transforming power of art. The India of Desai’s childhood transformed after Partition; later she left for new homes in England and the United States, though India remains her canvas.
In this discussion, hosted by Hilary Harper, Desai offers her consideration of a broad range of topics including identity, craft and the ‘tremendous changes’ that have taken place in India, leaving her often feeling insulated from the real conditions of her home country.
She talks about the frustration of wishing to rewrite lines from old books; about the unfortunate occurrence of some readers taking her work as a representation of the whole of India (and its literature); about finding an unexpected feeling of belonging in Mexico and being mentored by a Polish woman during her early writing days in India.
Anita Desai was born and educated in India. Her published works include many award-winning short story collections and novels, three of which have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, most recently Fasting, Feasting.