Jhabvala, Ruth Prawer 1927–
Jhabvala, Ruth Prawer 1927–
PERSONAL: Born May 7, 1927, in Cologne, Germany; immigrated to England, 1939; naturalized British citizen, 1948; naturalized U.S. citizen, 1986; daughter of Marcus (owner of a clothing business) and Eleonora (Cohn) Prawer; married Cyrus S.H. Jhabvala (an architect), 1951; children: Renana, Ava, Firoza. Education: Queen Mary College, London, M.A., 1951.
ADDRESSES: Home and office—400 East 52nd St., New York, NY 10022. Agent—Rand Holston, Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
CAREER: Novelist and author of screenplays. Producer of documentary film Courtesans of Bombay, New Yorker, 1982.
MEMBER: Royal Society of Literature (fellow), Authors Guild, Authors League of America, Writers Guild of America.
AWARDS, HONORS: Booker McConnell Prize for Fiction, British Book Trust, 1975, for Heat and Dust; Guggenheim fellow, 1976; Neil Gunn International fellow, 1979; British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Award for best screenplay, 1983, for Heat and Dust; Literary Lion award, New York Public Library, 1983; MacArthur Foundation fellow, 1984–89; Writers Guild of America Award for best adapted screenplay, and Academy Award for best screenplay adaption, both 1986, and BAFTA Award nomination for best adapted screenplay, 1987, all for A Room with a View; New York Film Critics Award for best screenplay, 1990, for Mr. and Mrs. Bridge; Academy Award for best screenplay adaption, BAFTA Award nomination for best adapted screenplay, Writers Guild of America Award nomination for best screenplay based on material previously produced or published, and Golden Globe Award nomination for best screenplay—motion picture, all 1993, all for Howards End; Academy Award nomination for best writing—screenplay based on material from another medium, BAFTA Award nomination for best adapted screenplay, Writers Guild of America Award nomination for best screenplay based on material previously produced or published, and Golden Globe Award nomination for best screenplay—motion picture, all 1994, all for The Remains of the Day; Laurel Award for Screen Writing Achievement, Writers Guild of America, 1994; D.Litt. London University; L.H.D. Hebrew Union; D.Arts, Bard; BAFTA fellowship, 2002; NBC Screenwriters Tribute, 2003; Nantucket Film Festival honors, 2003; O. Henry Prize, 2005, for the short story "Refuge in London".
To Whom She Will, Allen & Unwin (London, England), 1955, published as Amrita, Norton (New York, NY), 1956.
The Nature of Passion, Allen & Unwin (London, England), 1956.
Esmond in India, Allen & Unwin (London, England), 1957.
The Householder (also see below), Norton (New York, NY), 1960.
Get Ready for Battle, J. Murray (London, England), 1962.
Like Birds, Like Fishes, and Other Stories, J. Murray (London, England), 1963.
A Backward Place, Norton (New York, NY), 1965.
A Stronger Climate: Nine Stories, J. Murray (London, England), 1968.
An Experience of India (stories), J. Murray (London, England), 1971.
A New Dominion, J. Murray (London, England), 1972, published as Travelers, Harper (New York, NY), 1973.
Heat and Dust (also see below), J. Murray (London, England), 1975.
How I Became a Holy Mother, and Other Stories, J. Murray (London, England), 1975.
In Search of Love and Beauty, Morrow (New York, NY), 1983.
Out of India: Selected Stories, Morrow (New York, NY), 1986.
Three Continents, Morrow (New York, NY), 1987.
Poet and Dancer, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1993.
Shards of Memory, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1995.
East into Upper East: Plain Tales from New York and New Delhi (stories), Counterpoint Press (New York, NY), 1998.
My Nine Lives (fictionalized autobiography), J. Murray (London, England), 2004.
The Householder (based on her novel), Royal, 1963.
(With James Ivory) Shakespeare Wallah (produced by Merchant-Ivory Productions, 1966), Grove, 1973.
(With James Ivory) The Guru, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1968.
(With James Ivory) Bombay Talkie, Merchant-Ivory Productions, 1970.
Autobiography of a Princess (Cinema V, 1975), published in Autobiography of a Princess: Also Being the Adventures of an American Film Director in the Land of the Maharajas, Harper (New York, NY), 1975.
Roseland, Merchant-Ivory Productions, 1977.
Hullabaloo over Georgie and Bonnie's Pictures, Contemporary, 1978.
(With James Ivory) The Europeans (based on the novel by Henry James), Levitt-Pickman, 1979.
Jane Austen in Manhattan, Contemporary, 1980.
(With James Ivory) Quartet (based on the novel by Jean Rhys), Lyric International/New World, 1981.
Heat and Dust (based on her novel), Merchant-Ivory Productions, 1983.
The Bostonians (based on the novel by Henry James), Merchant-Ivory Productions, 1984.
The Courtesans of Bombay, Channel 4, England/New Yorker Films, 1985.
A Room with a View (based on the novel by E.M. Forster), Merchant-Ivory Productions, 1986.
(With John Schlesinger) Madame Sousatzka (based on the novel by Bernice Rubens), Universal, 1988.
Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (based on the novels Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge by Evan S. O'Connell), Miramax, 1990.
Howards End (based on the novel by E.M. Forster), Merchant-Ivory Productions, 1992.
The Remains of the Day (based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro), Merchant-Ivory Productions, 1993.
Jefferson in Paris, Merchant-Ivory Productions, 1995.
Surviving Picasso, Merchant-Ivory Productions, 1997.
(With James Ivory) A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries (based on the novel by Kaylie Jones), October Films, 1998.
The Golden Bowl (based on the novel by Henry James), Miramax, 2000.
Le Divorce (based on the novel by Diane Johnson) Fox Searchlight, 2003.
A Call from the East (play), produced in New York, NY, 1981.
Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including New Yorker, Encounter, Kenyon Review, Yale Review, Zoetrope, and New Statesman. Work represented in anthologies, including Penguin Modern Stories 2, Penguin, 1972.
SIDELIGHTS: Although Ruth Prawer Jhabvala has long been celebrated in Europe and India—the home of her husband—for her quality fiction and screenplays, it was not until she won an Academy Award for her screenplay adaptation of E.M. Forster's A Room with a View that she began attracting widespread attention in the United States for her work. As a German who became a British subject and lived in India for twenty-four years before moving to New York City, Jhabvala brings a unique perspective to her novels and stories of East-West conflict. "With a cool, ironic eye and a feeling for social nuance," asserted Bernard Weinraub in a New York Times Magazine article, Jhabvala has "developed a series of themes—families battered by change in present-day India, the timeless European fascination with the subcontinent—that were probably both incomprehensible and inconsequential to readers who were not intrigued with India in the first place. And yet," continued the critic, "as Mrs. Jhabvala's work darkened and turned more melancholy, as her detachment grew chilling in her later work, critics began to notice that the writer's India had become as universal as Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha and Chekhov's czarist Russia." "Like Jane Austen," noted Saturday Review contributor Katha Pollitt, Jhabvala "treats satirically and intimately a world in which conventions are precisely defined and widely accepted, even by those who are most harmed by them."
Jhabvala has led a rather unconventional life. She and her family narrowly escaped Nazi persecution as Jews, fleeing to safety in England in 1939. All her father's relatives died in the Holocaust. Ten years after the family's flight into exile she met the man who became her husband, architect Cyrus S.H. Jhabvala. After their marriage, the couple left Europe to live in newly independent India. "I was twenty-four," Jhabvala stated in an interview with David Streitfeld in the Washington Post Book World, "and just at the age when one really starts to write seriously. There was so much subject matter for me. I hardly finished a book before I started a new one. I was so full of energy, I immediately wrote as if I were an Indian, from inside." Yet, she wanted it understood she could not be known as an Indian writer. "I wasn't even really anything when I was in India, because I was a foreigner there. People are always asking where my roots are, and I say I don't have any."
Since the appearance of her first work in 1955, Amrita—published in Great Britain as To Whom She Will—Jhabvala has frequently been compared to British writer Jane Austen due to her cutting portrayals of the foibles of the Indian middle-class. In Amrita, commented Nancy Wilson Ross in the New York Herald Tribune Book Review, Jhabvala "has written a fresh and witty novel about modern India. It is not necessary to know anything about the customs and habits of … New Delhi—the setting of Mrs. Jhabvala's lively comedy of manners—to enjoy her ironic social commentary." In agreement, Anuradha Vittachi wrote in the New Internationalist: "Jhabvala has been praised as India's Dickens, her novels compared to Forster's A Passage to India, as India's answer to Thackeray's Vanity Fair." "One might reasonably suppose from all this that Ruth Jhabvala is Indian," Vittachi continued. "In fact, the literary comparisons she attracts—Dickens, Forster, Thackeray—give a better clue to her background." In a Times Literary Supplement review of A Backward Place, the critic maintained that while Jhabvala "has not the sustained brilliance that Jane Austen often rises to … all the same her many excellent qualities are nearly all Austenish ones, and they make her a most interesting and satisfactory writer." Observed J.F. Muehl in his Saturday Review appraisal of Jhabvala's debut novel, the comparison to Austen "is not only just; it is inevitable."
Although Jhabvala secured her reputation as one of the foremost modern writers about India after the publication of her award-winning novel Heat and Dust, she was finding it difficult both to remain in and write about her adopted country. Vittachi explained that Jhabvala, like her character Judy in A Backward Place, "promptly fell in love with India's sensuousness after the greyness of wartime England," but that eventually, in Jhabvala's words, "'To have to look at this terrible abyss of poverty and chaos all the time' was too painful." Increasingly, critics began observing ambivalence toward India in Jhabvala's writing, a change evident in her retrospective collection of stories, Out of India. New York Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani, for example, commented that, "bit by bit,… the stories in Out of India darken, grow denser and more ambiguous. In choosing narrative strategies that are increasingly ambitious," explained the reviewer, "Jhabvala gradually moves beyond the tidy formulations of the comedy of manners, and a strain of melancholy also begins to creep into her writing."
Village Voice contributor Vivian Gornick similarly discerned "oppressiveness" in Jhabvala's writing, and speculated that the author was "driven to separate herself from India." The critic believed that this need undermined Jhabvala's work: "That drive deprives her of empathy and, inevitably, it deprives her characters of full humanness." In contrast, Paul Gray claimed in his Time review that the stories in Out of India "do not demystify India; they pay the place tributes of empathy and grace." "Reading [these stories] is like watching a scene through an exceptionally clear telescope," stated Rumer Godden in the New York Times Book Review. This distance, however, "does not take away from the stories sureness of touch," Godden continued. "They have a beginning, middle and end, but fused so subtly we drift into them—and are immediately at home—and drift out again."
Some of Jhabvala's more mature fiction, while eschewing the familiar Indian setting, explores her usual themes, such as the search for spiritual fulfillment. Three Continents, for example, relates the story of nineteen-year-old twins Michael and Harriet Wishwell, heirs to a large fortune, who are drawn to the promises of a trio of supposed spiritual philosophers. The twins become obsessed with the Rawul, his consort the Rani, and their "adopted son" Crishi, and turn over control of their lives and fortune to the swindlers. "In its geographical scope, its large and far-flung cast and its relentless scrutiny of both sexual and intellectual thrall-dom," maintained Laura Shapiro in Newsweek, Three Continents "is Jhabvala's most ambitious and impressive work." Los Angeles Times reviewer Elaine Kendall similarly called the novel "perhaps [Jhabvala's] most ambitious work," remarking that it "not only confronts" issues from her previous work "directly but in a more contemporary context."
Poet and Dancer, like Three Continents, is a non-Indian novel; it is, in fact, set in New York. Jhabvala told Streitfeld that the novel was inspired by the story of a double suicide, two sisters who killed themselves without any perceptible reason. "I was wondering how this could have happened—it was a very dark deed, a dark relationship," she stated. The relationship as Jhabvala depicts it is between two cousins, Angel and Lara. Angel, a poet, has lived her entire life in New York City, while Lara, a dancer, has travelled all over the world. "As the reader might expect," stated Claire Messud in the Times Literary Supplement, "Angel, to whom Lara appears an exotic and precious butterfly, devotes herself adoringly to her cousin; but Lara proves dangerous and ultimately mad, and the result of their closeness is their mutual destruction." Some critics expressed puzzlement over Angel's fascination with Lara, who, some felt, is depicted very unsympathetically. "There's something lacking in this small, well-made novel," declared New Statesman reviewer Wendy Brandmark, "some moral centre, some emotional touchstone…. We do not know why we should care about these characters and their destructive search for the perfect life, the perfect art, the perfect love."
In Shards of Memory Jhabvala "once again addresses the themes of family and history through the premise of a set of old papers," wrote Molly E. Rauch in the Nation. The novel follows successive generations of a family who follow the charismatic spiritual guru known only as "the Master." The interweaving of multiple memories within in the narrative, according to Booklist critic Ilene Cooper, is what makes the novel "intensely personal." But, Cooper argued, the "beguiling" structure of the book is not its only positive aspect: "At the forefront are the characters, and here Jhabvala has outdone herself." Critics laud Jhabvala's narrative skill in handling the ways each character was affected or touched by the Master. "Jhabvala handles this highly sophisticated, complicated story with sinuous skill," praised a Publishers Weekly critic.
Jhabvala followed Shards of Memory with a collection of short fiction titled East into Upper East: Plain Tales from New York and New Delhi. The stories, some of which were originally published in the New Yorker, were written over the span of twenty years. In these stories, noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer, Jhabvala "depicts characters struggling to reconcile dependency and accommodation in their relationships." A Library Journal critic lauded Jhabvala's "expert observation and unique insight," while Deborah Mason, in the New York Times Book Review claimed that the collection "reaffirms" Jhabvala "as a spell-binding urban fabulist." Jhabvala's 2004 novel, My Nine Lives, is a work of autobiographical fiction.
While Jhabvala has been a consistent force on the literary scene, she is also a member of the longest producer-director-writer partnership in film history. With Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, she has helped create numerous movies that, while not necessarily hits at the box office, have been praised by critics for their consistent literary quality. The Jhabvala/Merchant/Ivory association dates to 1963, when Ivory and Merchant telephoned the author, then living in India, and asked her to write a screenplay from her fourth novel The Householder. "That gave me the opportunity I otherwise would never have had," Jhabvala told Streitfeld. "I was so lucky. Merchant and Ivory are like a shield for me. I don't have to bother with the things that are so gruesome for other screenwriters, like story conferences." It is also true that Jhabvala influences the subjects chosen for the films. International Herald Tribune contributor Mary Blume explained, "Whatever the period, [Ivory] says their films present certain themes." As Ivory told Blume in the interview, "Where Ruth Jhabvala's concerned, again and again we've had women in the hands of very dubious men and how they strike out and somehow succeed. I think we tell these stories over and over again, no matter when they're set."
Although the author was initially reluctant to attempt screenplays, critic Yasmine Gooneratne maintained that the dramatic qualities necessary for films have always been present in Jhabvala's work. Writing in World Literature Written in English, Gooneratne stated that the author's early novels have "the tight structure of stage plays, and even [contain] casts of characters. The process by which the comparative simplicities of satiric drama yield to the complexity of ironic fiction is hastened, it would appear, through her experience of working repeatedly within the narrow limits of a screenplay." The critic cited the film-like structure of Heat and Dust as an example, and added that, "despite the fact that Mrs. Jhabvala's increasing technical skill as a writer of screenplays has helped her to devise ways and means to make the cinema screen yield workable equivalents for her established fictional techniques, it is probable that her artistry as a fiction-writer still outstrips her achievement as a writer for film. So rapid has her development been, however," Gooneratne continued, "that this is unlikely to be the case for very long." As Jhabvala herself told Guardian reviewer Philip Horne, in adapting literary classics to film "fidelity is not the first thing … the theme and the feel of the characters—the ambience and their relationships—that is what you try and [capture] but never, never literally."
About The Bostonians, the 1984 adaptation of Henry James's novel, Vincent Canby of the New York Times remarked that "it's now apparent" that the trio has "enriched and refined their individual talents to the point where they have now made what must be one of their best films" to date. In 1986's A Rooom with a View director Ivory and screenwriter Jhabvala take "Forster's 1908 novel and preserved its wit, irony and brilliant observation of character," stated Lawrence O'Toole in Maclean's. "And they never allow its theme—the importance of choosing passion over propriety—to escape their grasp." Calling the film "an exceptionally faithful, ebullient screen equivalent to a literary work that lesser talents would embalm," Canby noted that, "maybe more important than anything else" in the film "is the narrative tone." He explained that Ivory and Jhabvala "have somehow found a voice for the film not unlike that of Forster, who tells the story of A Room with a View with as much genuine concern as astonished amusement. That's quite an achievement."
For their next film, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, Jhabvala, Merchant, and Ivory focus on the foibles of the American, rather than the English, upper-middle class. Jhabvala's version of Evan S. Connell's two novels "is not social satire as much as a melancholy, delicate and gently funny look at the ordinariness of American life," declared Richard A. Blake in America. "In her adaptation, Jhabvala has tried to balance highlights of the Bridges' lives with dailiness," Stanley Kauffmann stated in the New Republic, "though inevitably there's less of the non-dramatic in the film than in the novels." The end result, Blake concluded, "is a charming, elegant and literate film, beautifully embellished by finely balanced, sensitive ensemble acting."
Despite the acclaim accorded the Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala productions, as Newsweek contributor David Ansen noted, "there were always detractors who dismissed their works as enervated 'Masterpiece Theatre' gentility." This dichotomy is especially evident in the diversity of critical commentary that greeted the collaborators' version of Forster's Howards End. Reviewing this film—which brought Jhabvala her second Academy Award—in the National Review, John Simon termed the movie "inept," while Anne Billson stated in the New Statesman and Society: "If Howards End is supposed to be an indictment of snobbery and greed, it fails, because it revels in the snobbish and greedy way of life." "The qualities of such illustrated English Lit are not cinematic, but are those of the Edwardian theme park," Billson continued. "This film should be bought up by the National Trust, though it doesn't need to be preserved. It has already been pickled in the formaldehyde of nostalgia." New Yorker contributor Terrence Rafferty found the film well done, but added that "those of us who love Forster might miss the sense of strain, the awkward human beauty of his artistic failure."
In the opinion of Commonweal contributor Richard Alleva, Jhabvala, Merchant, and Ivory actually improve on author Kazuo Ishiguro's novel The Remains of the Day in adapting it to film. Alleva pointed out that Ishiguro, by seeing his story about a butler whose sense of self-worth rests wholly on his usefulness to his employer only through the butler's eyes, makes the novel "predictable." "It's a stunt," Alleva contended, "and you soon learn the mechanics of the stunt." But Jhabvala's "film adaptation is not a stunt, just a good movie," the reviewer continued, because it takes the story away from the butler-only point of view and presents the plot in a linear fashion. "The stoic poignancy of the title, The Remains of the Day," Alleva concluded, "is more fully earned by the movie than by the book." Simon enjoyed the film as well, stating that "The Remains of the Day will long remain in your memory as a portrait of heroic futility, heartbreaking fatuity, and purblind doggedness, as they become the downfall of a society, an empire, and, worst of all, a single human soul."
Jhabvala's screenplay for Merchant-Ivory's Surviving Picasso is loosely based on Arianna Huffington's 1989 biography of the Spanish painter. The film follows the ten-year relationship between Picasso and Fran?oise Gilot, a young ingenue the painter met in Nazi-occupied Paris in 1943. Jhabvala's script is less concerned with the artistic muse inspiring Picasso's works than it is on the artist's love of life and how it influenced his imagination. Perhaps because of its subject, the film received mixed reviews. Bruce Williamson for Playboy found it "an elegant, uncompromising" look at a man who was "a cruel, self-serving womanizer." John Simon in the National Review, on the other hand, maintained that the film sacrifices Picasso's passion on the altar of middlebrow civility. Labeling Jhabvala and Ivory "two old routiners," Simon observed that they "have by now achieved a certain slickness and fluency, but without the spark of inspiration that makes the whole world kin." Adams Mars-Jones in the London Independent wrote, on the other hand, that Surviving Picasso, "is the least Merchant Ivory-ish film to be made by that team for many years. For once, they are recreating not order but turmoil, and a man who demanded stability from the women who loved him, but then slipped away from those settled arrangements himself." Mars-Jones continued: "Françoise was almost half a century younger than Picasso, and seems to have walked into her life with him with her eyes wide shut. Her complaint essentially is that he was meant to be as wholly transformed by her as she was by him. The film shows that he almost was—that he was able to suspend some of his exploitative patterns." Noting that Surviving Picasso "ends with a montage of the work that Picasso was making during this period, perhaps with a view to rehabilitating the artist after indulging the man so little," the critic concluded that, ultimately, "a more complicated picture has emerged, of a monster without power except what his victims gave him, and a woman who found the thread out of that labyrinth."
The trio next took on Henry James's last novel, The Golden Bowl. Gary Arnold in the Washington Times commented that "Jhabvala's crisp scenario remedies the novelist's prolix tendencies while taking minor liberties with the time frame," while Susan Stark in the Detroit News felt the production "is, in some ways, the most complex and impressive of the three films" Merchant-Ivory based on James's work. Part of the reason for this, Stark wrote, is the novel's reach into both past and future. It is mainly set in the early twentieth century and features a complicated and complicating relationship between four people: an impoverished French prince, a wealthy American coal baron, his daughter, Maggie, and her best friend, Charlotte, a penniless American who had already been lovers with the prince and resumes her relationship after her marriage to Maggie's father. Jhabvala succeeds "wondrously well" in reshaping a complex and demanding novel as a script, Stark maintained, concluding: "To viewers who have come to see Ivory's signature as a guarantee of intelligence, visual splendor and reflective rue, The Golden Bowl is bliss. To those accustomed to hot, loud and fast at the movies, however, this film requires a period of serious adjustment."
New York Observer contributor Andrew Sarris acknowledged, "That the film came out as well as it did, considering that the novel is perhaps James's greatest, densest and most exquisitely articulated work, is itself little short of a miracle." One of the failures of the film, Sarris observed, is the ending, in which, rather than closing, as does the book, with "Maggie and the Prince in a troubled embrace," viewers see Charlotte and her husband arriving with all their art treasures in the United States. Sarris commented, "Certainly, Adam's art treasures and his dreams of a magnificent museum in an 'American city' are there in James's novel, and one can make of these dreams what one will, but the heart of the drama is the ultimate triumph of Maggie over Charlotte, at whatever cost." He surmised that Ivory and Jhabvala were uncomfortable with the bent of the novel: that it is money and not love that makes the world go round. A New York Post critic judged The Golden Bowl "the best Merchant-Ivory film in years" and "a surprisingly dramatic and forceful tale of love and adultery."
A film set in contemporary Paris, Le Divorce, fared relatively poorly with critics following its 2002 release. While some critics found it trite and shallow, Jonathan Romney in London's Independent on Sunday advised filmgoers not to "switch channels" because "there's something going on here." The tension in this film is set up between the United States and France. The French are depicted as "flighty on the one hand, impeccably classy on the other: the aristos shock the Americans by their blithe chatter about adultery," Romney explained. The Americans, on the other hand, "are gauche, impressionable, awkwardly attuned to the nuances of European culture." "Yet Le Divorce always contrives to move some way beyond the stereotypes, to provide some unexpected shading," the critic concluded. "In a key scene, Isabel and Yves watch TV, flipping between culture channel Arte, a prolix talk show in which Edgar suavely spouts his anti-abortion views, and The Simpsons dubbed into French. Yves expresses his horror that France is being swamped by American product, but can't stop watching the show anyway, while Isabel comments, 'How weird to be culturally threatened by a cartoon.' Where you might expect such patrician filmmakers to treat The Simpsons as some sort of lowbrow horror, they use it as a springboard for a discussion of cultural anxiety."
In some ways, Jhabvala has said, the two forms of writing—fiction and screenplays—enhance each other, though as she told Horne, "I started off and still am primarily a novelist, and not a screenwriter." "I certainly don't think I could write screenplays very well if I didn't, most of the time, work at creating characters and dialogue and situations of my own in my fiction," she told Nancy Wilson Ross. "Then whatever I've accumulated of experience in that, I bring to the screenplays. And in writing novels you also get a certain feel for structure which you have to have in constructing a screenplay. But I also think the screenwriting has definitely influenced my fiction. For instance, I think you can see it in Heat and Dust, and in In Search of Love and Beauty in the way I've juggled scenes and time sequences around. That's something I learned in films."
While compared to well-known writers early in her career, Jhabvala has gone on to achieve a prominent literary standing with her consistently excellent work. "How does one know when one is in the grip of art, of a literary power?" asked Rabinowitz in the New York Times Book Review. "One feels, amongst other things, the force of personality behind the cadence of each line, the sensibility behind the twist of the syllable. One feels the texture of the unspoken, the very accents of a writer's reticence." Jhabvala, maintained the critic, "seems to come naturally by a good deal of that reticence." Godden similarly praised the author for her original voice, and added that in Jhabvala's many novels, screenplays, and short stories "I could wager there is not in any of them one shoddy line or unnecessary word, a standard few writers achieve. Each book," Godden continued, "has her hallmark of balance, subtlety, wry humor and beauty." And Weinraub, in assessing Jhabvala's reputation in the literary community, quoted the late novelist C.P. Snow: "Someone once said that the definition of the highest art is that one should feel that life is this and not otherwise. I do not know of a writer living who gives that feeling with more unqualified certainty than Mrs. Jhabvala."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Acheson, James, editor, The British and Irish Novel since 1960, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1991.
Agarwal, Ramlal G. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala: A Study of Her Fiction, Envoy (New York, NY), 1990.
Ayyappa Paniker, K., editor, Indian English Literature since Independence, Indian Association for English Studies (New Delhi, India), 1991.
Brinker-Gabler, Gisela, and Sidonie Smith, editors, Writing New Identities: Gender, Nation, and Immigration in Contemporary Europe, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1997.
Chadha, Ramesh, Cross-cultural Interaction in Indian English Fiction: An Analysis of the Novels of Ruth Jhabvala and Kamala Markandaya, National Book Organisation (New Delhi, India), 1988.
Chakravarti, Aruna, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala: A Study in Empathy and Exile, BR Publishing (Delhi, India), 1998.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 4, 1975, Volume 8, 1978, Volume 29, 1984, Volume 94, 1997.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 194: British Novelists since 1960, Second Series, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.
Gooneratne, Yasmine, Silence, Exile, and Cunning: The Fiction of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Orient Longman (New Delhi, India), 1983.
Jain, Jasbir, and Amina Amin, editors, Margins of Erasure: Purdah in the Subcontinental Novel in English, Sterling (New Delhi, India), 1995.
Jha, Rekha, The Novels of Kamala Markandaya and Ruth Jhabvala: A Study in East-West Encounter, Prestige Books (New Delhi, India), 1990.
Kessler-Harris, Alice, and William McBrien, editors, Faith of a (Woman) Writer, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1988.
Kundu, Rama, editor, Indian Writing in English, Volume I, Atlantic (New Delhi, India), 2003.
Pritchett, V. S., The Tale Bearers: Literary Essays, Random House (New York, NY), 1980.
Roberts, Sheila, and Yvonne Pacheco Tevis, editors, Still the Frame Holds: Essays on Women Poets and Writers, Borgo Press (San Bernardino, CA), 1993.
Ross, Robert L., editor, International Literature in English: Essays on the Major Writers, Garland (New York, NY), 1991.
Shepherd, Ronald, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala in India: The Jewish Connection, Chanakya, 1994.
Sucher, Laurie, The Fiction of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1988.
Werlock, Abby H. P., editor, British Women Writing Fiction, University of Alabama Press (Tuscaloosa, AL), 2000.
Albany Times Union, August 22, 2003.
America, March 2, 1991, p. 242; May 13, 1995, p. 24.
Ariel, July, 1986, p. 103; July, 1989, p. 19.
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Commonweal, December 17, 1993, pp. 14-16; May 19, 1995; October 23, 1998, p. 18.
Detroit News, May 25, 2001, p. 3.
Entertainment Weekly, April 7, 1995, p. 61; September 15, 1995, p. 116; September 27, 1996; August 15, 2003, p. 51.
Essays in Criticism, April, 1986, p. 142.
Financial Times, January 18, 1999, p. 17.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), July 26, 1986; October 17, 1987.
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