Anita Desai Wiki, Age, Husband, Family, Biography & More

Anita Desai

Anita Desai is an Indian writer and novelist who has spent the majority of her life writing fiction. Some of her most famous works include ‘Cry, the Peacock’ (1963), ‘Clear Light of Day, (1980), Fasting, Feasting (1999). Desai was admired for her writing style, in which she delves deeper into her protagonist’s life.


Anita Desai was born as ‘Anita Mazumdar’ on Thursday, 24 June 1937 (age 86 years; as of 2023) in Mussoorie, British India (now in India), in a mixed-race family. Her zodiac sign is cancer. She went to Queen Mary’s Higher Secondary School for her primary education and later pursued a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature at Miranda House (Delhi University). Anita Desai learnt to speak and write in English in her school, which later became her literary language. She started writing fiction at the age of 8, and the rest is history. Anita Desai resides in The United States.


Parents & Siblings

Anita’s mother, Toni Nime, was a German immigrant and her father, D. N. Mazumdar, was a Bengali Businessman. Her father had gone to Berlin to study engineering, where a German sculptor, George Kolbe, introduced Anita’s parents to each other. Anita’s parents got married to each other during a time when marrying a person from a different culture was frowned upon. Soon after their marriage, Anita’s parents shifted to Delhi. Anita has 2 elder sisters and a brother.

Husband & Children

Soon after graduating from Miranda House, Anita got married to Ashvin Desai, who was the director of a computer software company and also, the author of ‘Between Eternities: Ideas on Life and The Cosmos’, a book all about findings from different thoughts. In 2020, Ashvin Desai passed away after a long battle with cancer. Together, Ashwin and Anita had 4 children and one of them is the famous award-winning author Kiran Desai. Known for her novel, ‘The Inheritance of Loss’, Kiran has won the prestigious Man Booker Prize, making her the youngest one to receive the award. Kiran Desai was also listed amongst the ‘Top 20 most influential global Indian women’.

Kiran Desai

Anita Desai’s daughter, Kiran Desai



Anita Desai began her teaching career in 1993 as a professor of creative writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. She has taught at different colleges like Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and Baruch College. Anita Desai is also a fellow of The Royal Society of Literature, Cambridge University, Girton College, and The American Academy of Arts and Letters.


Anita Desai published her first-ever novel, ‘Cry, the Peacock’ (1963), a fiction about a little girl and her prediction of disasters. The novel focuses on existing depression, psychological dissatisfaction, and grief. The key takeaway of the book is expressing one’s thoughts and how essential it is to be vocal about your feelings in order to live a life free from anxiety. The heavy subject of the novel was loved worldwide due to its relatable nature.

Anita Desai

Anita Desai’s first novel, ‘Cry, The Peacock’

In 1980, Anita Desai published her ‘autobiographical’ novel, ‘Clear Light of Day,’ a novel that revolved around the complicated relationships among family members. Anita set the novel in the same neighbourhood of Old Delhi, where she grew up. The novel was merely a depiction of India which got more admiration from the Indian audience. The main theme of the novel was the partition of India and Pakistan, and how the characters struggled during the time of independence. The usage of symbols in ‘Clear Light of Day’ is what gained Anita a lot of appreciation.

Anita Desai

Anita Desai’s autobiographical novel ‘Clear Light of Day’

In 1984, Anita Desai Published another one of her masterpieces, ‘In Custody,’ a novel about the downfall of an Urdu poet. This book pushes the readers towards seeking a purpose in life. The themes of this novel showcase how some social evils like corruption, and the difference between poor and rich, have been existing for a long time now. The focus given to languages in the book makes the reader stick to their mother tongues. The book was shortlisted for the esteemed Booker Prize.

Anita Desai

Anita Desai’s novel ‘In Custody’

The turning point for Anita Desai’s career in terms of popularity was her book ‘Fasting, Feasting’, published in 1999. The complexity of the plot in the novel was appreciated by the critics of literature. It emphasises on gender roles in society, freedom, traditions, togetherness, and so on. The level of intricacy in Anita’s novels is clearly shown in this novel of hers, which is full of different themes and plots. More about comparison, this prose is full of minute details.

Anita Desai

Anita Desai’s book ‘Fasting, Feasting’

From her latest collection, Anita Desai published another novel, ‘The Zigzag Way’ (2004). The text revolved around the transformation of society and globalisation as a whole. Anita Desai’s theme of searching for a purpose and meaning in life has been a commonality in many of her literary works. Such is also the case with The Zigzag Way. The characters long for a goal in life. Even though the book received mixed reviews, this prose is known for being slightly chaotic and tackling family disturbances and the sufferings of middle-class women.

Anita Desai

Anita Desai’s book ‘The Zigzag Way’

The latest work of Anita Desai is her novel, ‘The Artist of Disappearance’ (2011), a 3 novella compilation. The series is full of creativity and regional themes. This elaborated narration shows a clear image of India’s urbanization. It is the perfect blend of irony, sympathy, and a touch of relatability that plucks the strings of every reader in one way or the other. This novel reflects how good of a culturally diverse and contemporary writer is Anita Desai.

Anita Desai

Anita Desai’s novel ‘The Artist of Disappearance’

Awards and Nominations

  • Anita Desai was nominated for the Booker Prize thrice for her fiction novels for the years 1980- ‘Clear Light of Day’, 1984- ‘In Custody’, and 1999- ‘Fasting, Feasting’.
  • In 2014, Anita Desai received the prestigious Padma Bhushan.
  • In 1978, Anita Desai received the Sahitya Akademi Award for her book ‘Fire on the Mountain.’
  • In 2003, Anita Desai received the Benson Medal of Royal Society of Literature.
  • In 1978, Anita Desai received The Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize, for her book ‘Fire on the Mountain.’
  • In 1983, Anita Desai received the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize for her book, ‘The Village by the Sea.’
  • In 1993, Anita Desai received the Neil Gunn Prize for her services in the field of literature.
  • In 2000, Anita Desai received the Alberto Moravia Prize for Literature.
  • In 2017, Anita Desai received the Blue Metropolis’s Literary Grand Prix, held in Montreal, Canada.


  • Anita Desai’s novel ‘In Custody’ was adapted by the film company Merchant Ivory Productions, and a movie was made by the same name, which starred Shashi Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, and Om Puri. The movie was later awarded the President of India Gold Medal for Best Picture in 1994.

    Anita Desai

    The poster of the film ‘In Custody,’ an adaptation of Anita Desai’s same-titled novel

  • Anita Desai wrote for the New York Review of Books.
  • Anita Desai published her first short story at the age of 9.
  • Anita Desai is fluent in German, Hindi, English, and Urdu.
  • Anita Desai donated her family library to Gargi College in Delhi.
  • Virginia Woolf’s work was of great influence on Anita Desai’s writings.
  • Anita Desai always felt a sense of ‘loneliness’ because she felt her family was not like others.
  • In 1958, in joint collaboration with P. Lal (Indian poet), Anita Desai founded the famous publishing firm Writers Workshop.
  • She was just ten years old when India got independence. Therefore, her initial novels hinted at the suppression faced by women. Overall, praised for poetic symbolism, Anita Desai has been one of the finest writers India could produce.

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