In ‘Retrospective’ we look at the year's high and low points in the literary world.

Herta Muller wins Nobel Prize 2009 for Literature


On October 8, Herta Muller won the Nobel Prize for Literature for the year 2009.

Herta Müller was born on August 17, 1953 in the German-speaking town Nitzkydorf in Banat, Romania. Her parents were members of the German-speaking minority in Romania. Her father had served in the Waffen SS during World War II. Many German Romanians were deported to the Soviet Union in 1945, including Müller's mother who spent five years in a work camp in present-day Ukraine. Many years later, in Atemschaukel (2009), Müller was to depict the exile of the German Romanians in the Soviet Union. From 1973 to 1976, Müller studied German and Romanian literature at the university in Timişoara (Temeswar).

Herta Müller made her debut with the collection of short stories Niederungen (1982), which was censored in Romania. Two years later, she published the uncensored version in Germany and, in the same year, Drückender Tango in Romania. In these two works, Müller depicts life in a small, German-speaking village and the corruption, intolerance and repression to be found there. The Romanian national press was very critical of these works while, outside of Romania, the German press received them very positively. Because Müller had publicly criticized the dictatorship in Romania, she was prohibited from publishing in her own country. In 1987, Müller emigrated together with her husband, author Richard Wagner.

The novels Der Fuchs war damals schon der Jäger (1992)Herztier (1994; The Land of Green Plums, 1996) and Heute wär ich mir lieber nicht begegnet (1997; The Appointment, 2001) give, with chiselled details, a portrait of daily life in a stagnated dictatorship. Müller has given guest lectures at universities, colleges and other venues in Paderborn, Warwick, Hamburg, Swansea, Gainsville (Florida), Kassel, Göttingen, Tübingen and Zürich among other places. She lives in Berlin. Since 1995 she is a member of Deutsche für Sprache und Dichtung, in Darmstadt.


Alice Munro wins the Man Booker International 2009.


Alice Munro was announced as the winner of the third Man Booker International Prize, on 27 May 2009.

Worth £60,000, the prize is awarded every two years to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language. Since Mahashweta Devi was one of the contenders we all had a special interest in this year's Man Booker International.

Alice Munro was one of the contenders for the Man Booker International Prize 2007. And her novel The Beggar Maid was shortlisted for Man Booker in 1980.

The Contenders for the prestigious Man Booker International award 2009 were
  • Peter Carey
  • Evan S Connell
  • Mahasweta Devi
  • E.L. Doctorow
  • James Kelman
  • Mario Vargas Llosa
  • Arnošt Lustig
  • V S Naipaul
  • Joyce Carol Oates
  • Antonio Tabucchi
  • Ngugi Wa Thiong’O
  • Dubravka Ugresic
  • Ludmila Ulitskaya »
  • hilarymantel

    Hilary Mantel was named the winner of the £50,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction for her novel Wolf Hall.

    Hilary Mantel was born in Glossop, Derbyshire, England on July 6, 1952. She studied Law at the London School of Economics and Sheffield University.

    The book, Wolf Hall, is set in England in the 1520s, Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey’s clerk, and later his successor.


    Her novels include Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988), set in Jeddah; Fludd (1989), set in a mill village in the north of England and winner of the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize, the Cheltenham Prize and the Southern Arts Literature Prize; A Place of Greater Safety (1992), an epic account of the events of the French revolution that won the Sunday Express Book of the Year award; A Change of Climate (1994), the story of a missionary couple whose lives are torn apart by the loss of their child; and An Experiment in Love (1995), about the events in the lives of three schoolfriends from the north of England who arrive at London University in 1970, winner of the 1996 Hawthornden Prize.

    Her other works include The Giant, O’Brien (1998) tells the story of Charles O’Brien who leaves his home in Ireland to make his fortune as a sideshow attraction in London. Giving Up the Ghost: A Memoir (2003), is an autobiography in fiction and non-fiction, taking the reader from early childhood through to the discoveries in adulthood that led her to writing; and Learning to Talk: Short Stories (2003).

    Hilary Mantel’s novel Beyond Black (2005) tells the story of Alison, a Home Counties psychic, and her assistant, Colette. It was shortlisted for a 2006 Commonwealth Writers Prize and for the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction. Her latest novel is Wolf Hall (2009).

    In 2006 she was also awarded a CBE.


    Wolf Hall



    Poets dominated Sahitya Akademi Award 2009 winners with eight of their books chosen for the honours in 24 categories of literature.

    The poets honoured were: Praduman Singh Jindrahia (Dogri), Kailash Vajpeyi (Hindi), Jess Fernandes (Konkani), Raghu Leishangthem (Manipuri), Vasant Abaji Dahake (Marathi), Phani Mohanty (Oriya), Damayanti Beshra (Santhali) and Puviarasu (Tamil).

    The awardees for their collection of short stories include Vaidehi (Kannada), the late Manmohan Jha (Maithili), Samiran Chhetri ‘Priyadarshi’ (Nepali), Major Ratan Jangid (Rajasthani), Prashasya Mitra Shastri (Sanskrit) and Anand Khemani (Sindhi).

    Well-known novelists Dhrubajyoti Bora (Assamese), the late Manoranjan Lahary (Bodo), U. A. Khadar (Malayalam) and Yarlagadda Laxmi Prasad (Telugu) were also honoured with the awards for 2009, Secretary of the Sahitya Akademi, Agrahara Krishna Murthy, said.

    The Akademi also announced ‘Bhasha Samman’ for 2008, to Vishwanath Khaire and Surendranath Satapathy in the field of classical and medieval literature. Mr. Murthy said the government had agreed in principle to increase the Sahitya Akademi award cash prize from Rs.50,000 to Rs.1 lakh. The Akademi had decided to honour authors of children’s literature from this year.

    — PTI

    Playwright Habib Tanveer Passes Away


    India has lost one of its most unconventional and incorrigible playwrights in Habib Tanveer on June 8.

    The playwright was known for his plays with social themes. During his lifetime he won several national and international awards, including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1969Padma Shri in 1983Kalidas Samman in  1990Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 1996, and the Padma Bhushan in 2002; apart from that he had also been nominated to become a member of the Upper House of Indian Parliament, the Rajya Sabha (1972-1978).

    His play 'Charandas Chor' (Charandas, The Thief) got him the Fringe Firsts Award at Edinburgh International Drama Festival in 1982, and in 2007, it was credited for "an innovative dramaturgy equally impelled by Brecht and folk idioms, Habib Tanvir seduces across language barriers in this his all-time biggest hit about a Robin Hood-style thief" as it was included in the Hindustan Times' list of 'India’s 60 Best Literary works since Independence'.


    Poet Kamala Das Passes Away


    Kamala Suraiyya, who died on May 31, 2009 aged 75, was one of India's best-known, and most written about, writers.

    Before her conversion to Islam known as Kamala Das, she was a staunch feminist.

    Kamala Das was born in PunnayurkulamThrissur District in Kerala, to V. M. Nair, a former managing editor of the widely-circulated Malayalam daily Mathrubhumi, and Nalappatt Balamani Amma, a renowned Malayali poetess.She spent her childhood between Calcutta, where her father was employed as a senior officer in the Walford Transport Company that sold Bentley and Rolls Royce automobiles, and the Nalappatt ancestral home in Punnayurkulam, south Malabar. region. Like her mother, Kamala Das also excelled in writing. Her love of poetry began at an early age through the influence of her great uncle, Nalappatt Narayana Menon, a prominent writer. However, she did not start writing professionally until she got married and became a mother.

    Kamala Das has received many awards for her literary contribution Asian Poetry Prize, Kent Award for English Writing from Asian Countries, Asian World Prize, Ezhuthachan Award, Sahitya Academy Award, Vayalar Award, Kerala Sahitya Academy Award and Muttathu Varkey Award.



    Poet Dilip Chitre Passes Away


    Marathi poet, writer, critic and film-maker Dilip Chitre, also known for his excellence as a painter, passed away on December 10, 2009 after an almost year-long battle with liver cancer.

    His English translation of 'Abhangas' (devotional poetry) of the 16th century Marathi saint Tukaram titled 'Says Tuka' that drew applause from literary circles worldwide. The collection was subsequently translated into German and other foreign languages. Chitre had a fascination for Tukaram who shunned social hypocrisy in a brutal expression while pursuing the path of devotion.

    His poems reflected loneliness of urban life, at times bordering on cynicism. The three collections of poems, numbering around 800, included 'Kavitenantarchaya Kavita' (Poems Beyond Poetry).

    Dilip Chitre, who also wrote a novel, 'Morphyus', was a constant source of inspiration for young writers. He was one of the torch bearers of the "little magazine" movement in Marathi literature and was associated with a literary periodical 'Abhiruchi', started by his father P A Chitre. He had also translated Marathi Dalit Poet Namdeo Dhasal's poems into English.


    Meenakshi Mukherjee Passes Away

    Noted littérateur and Sahitya Academy winner Meenakshi Mukherjee died in Hyderabad on September 16, 2009. She was travelling alone to Delhi to release one of her books, ‘An Indian for all seasons’ -- a biography of historian R C Dutt. She was 72 and is survived by two daughters.

    She received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2003 for her book The Perishable Empire: Essays On Indian Writing In English. Some of her other books include

    Author John Updike Passes Away


    John Updike, the gifted writer whose quartet of Rabbit novels highlighted a body of fiction, verse, essays and criticism so vast, protean and lyrical as to place him in the first rank of American authors, died on January, 27, 2009 in Danvers, Massuchusetts. He was 76.

    Among Updike’s many novels and stories, perhaps none captured the imagination of the book-reading public more than his precisely observed tales about ordinary citizens in small-town and urban settings.


    His best-known protagonist, Harry Rabbit Angstrom, first appears as a former high-school basketball star trapped in a loveless marriage and a sales job he hates. Through the four novels whose titles bear his nickname — “Rabbit, Run,” “Rabbit Redux,” “Rabbit Is RichandRabbit at Rest” — the author traces the funny, restless and questing life of this middle-American against the background of the last half-century’s major events.

    “My subject is the American Protestant small-town middle class,” Updike told Jane Howard in a 1966 interview for Life magazine. “I like middles,” he continued. “It is in middles that extremes clash, where ambiguity restlessly rules.”

    From his earliest short stories, he found his subject in the everyday dramas of marriage, sex and divorce, setting them most often in the fictional town of Olinger, Pa., which he described as “a square mile of middle-class homes physically distinguished by a bend in the central avenue that compels some side streets to deviate from the grid.” He wrote about America with boundless curiosity and wit in prose so careful and attentive that it burnished the ordinary with a painterly gleam.