Anita Desai


Anita Desai was a renowned writer of the short stories and a novelist; particularly he was noted for her very sensitive portrayal of the different inner life of the various female characters she incorporated in her works. Several novels that were written by Desai provide an exploration of the tensions that exists between the family members and the historical alienation of the women belonging to the middle class (Goel, 1989).

This essay is a literacy memoir that comprises of a case study of Anita Desai. It is a research assignment designed to develop a comprehensive understanding of the selected aspect. The essay will consider the development of the Desai’s career, the social and cultural context in which the she operates/operated, and her major works and themes.

Renowned Author: Anita Desai

Anita Desai is reported to be one of the foremost writers in India; Short story writer, Indian novelist, and the Children’s author. Anita Desai is indeed a name worth reckoning with in the field of literature. She has been a winner of the Sahitya Akademy Award as well as the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. She is reported to have authored approximately sixteen different works of fiction, and some of the works include, The Village by the Sea; Fasting, Feasting; Clear Light of Day; as well as In Custody (Goel, 1989).  Her original way of putting down her writings, her very distinct writing style, her very realistic subject line, and her original characters has actually made her writing worth endearing. Over the past years, Desai has won various recognitions and awards for several of her works and was subsequently short-listed twice for the Booker Prize. Apart from being a writer, she has also been involved in teaching at the same time. She has increasingly been an inspiration for the many individuals aspiring to be writers globally (Goel, 1989).

Anita Desai was born in Mussoorie, a hill station that is located on north of Delhi; being a daughter of D.N. Mazumdar who was a businessman, and Toni Nime of the German origin. Desai began writing in English language when she was seven years old and subsequently published her very first story just few years later. When she was nine years old, she read Wuthering Heights, where she is reported to have said that, “it stuck me with the force of a gale and I still vibrate to it.” Desai educated within Delhi at the Queen Mary’s Higher Secondary School as well as Miranda House, Delhi University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in English literature in the year 1957. The following years after her graduation, she got married to Ashvin Desai who was a businessman and they had four children (Goel, 1989).

In the Clear Light of Day (1980), Desai wove the rich history of Delhi with the Hindu family belonging to the middle class within the society. The central character in this story is Bim, which is simply a short form for Bimla. Another character is Das who is a history professor and portrayed as a very independent woman. The memories of Bim of the family’s past in this story are reported to have dominated her very sterile existence. She actually feels very much betrayed by her sister, Tera, who was very un-ambitious. She replays her various memories within the decaying family mansion in the old Delhi (Goel, 1989). Their brother in-law who was mentally retarded plays the old records. Tara does not actually understand the main reason why Bim does not want everything to change when she makes a rejection of the atmosphere of the particular house.

The summer of the year 1947 divided the family and the nation. The Muslims and the Hindus were torn apart by the partition. Through the consciousness of Tara and Bim, Desai looks at the same events from the different perspectives. The characters that were used by Desai in her works presented in several novels are reported to have been different members of Anglicized Indian bourgeoisies, whose various marital problems are reported to be mostly in the forefront. The characters always adopted the escapist’s ways in coping with boring life they led or the world outside their comfortable living (Goel, 1989). Another work of Desai is titled Where Shall We Go This Summer? (1975). Sita, a character in the novel is pregnant with the fifth child, takes a complete refuge from her own marriage on the particular magical island homestead of the deceased father. On the other hand, Nanda Kaul in the Fire on the Mountain is reported to be withdrawing into the private world of the isolation that was self-willed. Moreover, from the 1980s, Desai started examining very closely the different life of the under privileged within the society and consequently the themes of the social responsibility (Goel, 1989).

Desai has made comment on several of her works by stating that, “My novels are no reflection of Indian society, politics or character. They are my private attempt to seize upon the raw material of life.” In the novel titled In Custody, that was published in the year 1984 represents the ironic story of Desai concerning the academic illusions and the literary traditions. The main characters in this story is Nur who is an Urhi poet, faced hard times. Deven, a professor of the Hindi realized that actually the beloved poet was not indeed the magical genius he had initially thought (Kanawar, 1989). Disappointments haunt women and men from one of the stories to the other. Prema who is presented as the middle aged Delhi teacher of English in the Novella Translator Translated makes a conclusion that she is merely “a tired woman going home from work with nothing to look forward to,” (Kanawar, 1989, p 72).

My personal experience with the literacy memoir and specifically with the works of Anita Desai is the fact the literature can be used to bring out the social and cultural perspectives at which a given individual come from. Desai who was ailing from India used the literacy memoir to actually bring out the socio-cultural issues that existed within that society. It is therefore significant to indicate here that through the experience in this case study, l can be able to bring out the existing cultural and social issues within my society. In a nutshell, have also learnt through the case study that the literacy memoir can be used to bring out different themes within a society.


            This essay is a literacy memoir that comprised of a case study of Anita Desai. The essay has discussed the development of the Desai’s career, the social and cultural context in which she operated, and her major works and themes. Desai wrote on different cultural perspective but mainly focused on India. In a nutshell, her literary works were mainly a reflection of Indian society, politics or character.


Goel, K. B. (1989). Language and Theme in Anita Desai’s Fiction. Jaipur, India: Classic

Kanawar, A. (1989). Virginia Woolf and Anita Desai: A Comparative Study. New Delhi, India: Prestige.

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