Ruth Prawer Jhabvala came to England as a child refugee from Hitler’s Germany. Her grandfather had been cantor in Cologne’s great synagogue, her father was a lawyer. After the war, he killed himself in despair on learning of his family’s annihilation.
Ruth married and moved to India, where she wrote fiction through the eyes of an outsider – ‘a writer without any ground of being out of which to write, blown about from country to country, culture to culture’. She won the 1975 Booker prize for Heat and Dust and was the indispensable writing partner in the Merchant Ivory film team.
Ruth died today in New York, aged 85. Her last movie, in 2008, was The City of Your Final Destination.
Her brother, S. S. Prawer, who died last year, was professor of German language and literature at Oxford University, a leading autthority on Heine and a fine translator and commentator on Schubert Lieder. Such, such are the legacies of displacement.
portrait (c) Eamonn McCabe/Lebrecht Music&Arts