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May 7: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

May 6, 2015

RuthPrawerJhabvala_1975_lrRuth Prawer Jhabvala, Man Booker Prize-winning novelist and the winner of two Academy Awards for screenwriting (and the only person to win both honors), was born to Jewish parents in Germany on this date in 1927. Best known for her work as a screenwriter with Merchant Ivory Productions (Howard’s End, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, The Remains of the Day, The Golden Bowl, and other literate and beautifully designed films), she also wrote a dozen novels and eight collections of short stories. Her family fled to Great Britain from Nazi Germany in 1939, which led her to trade her German for English. Her mother had been the daughter of the cantor of Cologne’s largest synagogue; her father, a lawyer from Poland, would commit suicide in 1948 after learning of the Nazi destruction of his family. In 1951, Prawer married Cyrus S. H. Jhabvalaan, an architect from India, where she moved with him and raised three daughters. After winning the Man Booker Prize for Heat and Dust in 1975, she took a second residence, in New York. Jhabvala began working with Merchant Ivory in 1963 and penned twenty-two films with the company. Her last short-story collection, A Lovesong for India, was published in 2012, a year before her death at 85.

“Once a refugee, always a refugee. I can’t ever remember not being all right wherever I was, but you don’t give your whole allegiance to a place or want to be entirely identified with the society you’re living in.” —Ruth Prawer Jhabvala