Namita Gokhale  [ India ]

Biography

Namita Gokhale Portrait
©Harmit Singh

Guest 2005.

Bibliography

Mountain Echoes
Roli
New Delhi, 1998

Paro: Dreams of Passion
Penguin
New Delhi, 1999

Gods, Graves and Grandmother
Penguin
New Delhi, London, 2001

The Book of Shadows
Penguin
New Delhi, London, 2001

The Book of Shiva
Penguin
New Delhi, London, 2001

A Himalayan Love Story
Penguin
New Delhi, London, 2002

Shakuntala: The Play of Memory
Penguin
New Delhi, London, 2005

Übersetzer: Rainer G. Schmidt

Namita Gokhale (nee Pant) was born in Lucknow, India in 1956 and spent her childhood between New Delhi and Nainital, in the foothills of the Himalayas. Together with her husband Rajiv Gokhale, whom she married when she was eighteen, she published the film magazine »Super« from Bombay in the late seventies. Gokhale wrote her first book, »Paro: Dreams of Passion« in 1984. This satire upon the New Delhi and Mumbai elite received much recognition and caused an uproar due to its explicit depiction of sexuality. During the writing of her second book, »Gods, Graves and Grandmother« (1994), Gokhale fell seriously ill. Shortly afterwards her husband died.

The experience of love and passion, illness and death, has shaped Gokhale's work. For the author the act of writing implies not only a therapeutic act, but also a general expansion of the limits of experience: »Every book that is written sincerely involves a certain amount of the paranormal, because the aim of the author is to harness a way of seeing beyond her own limitations and increase the limits of the reader's experience.« Her novel »The Book of Shadows« (1999) tells the story of a young university lecturer whose fiancé has killed himself. His sister makes her responsible for the incident and deforms her through an assault with acid. The young woman learns to handle her pain in a remote house in the Himalayan mountains, where the violent fate of its former inhabitants is played before her inner eyes. This grotesque and vividly narrated work has been compared to Isabel Allende's »House of Spirits«.

Gokhale's most recent novel, »Shakuntala. The Play of Memory« (2005), first appeared in Hindi translation before the English edition was published. The plot is inspired by the over thousand year old play »Shakuntala«, written in Sanskrit by the Indian poet Kalidasa. The story of a young woman who learns through a blind priest about the mystery of her former life, which she must now come to terms with, it plays with the recurring theme of memory and desire. It has been compared by more than one critic to Hermann Hesse’s »Siddhartha«. Once again, Gokhale links a woman's tragic love story to religion, the history of the country and philosophy.

The author has also written two books of essays. »The Book of Shiva« (2001) is an erudite and impassioned examination of the Hindu god of death and regeneration. »Mountain Echoes« (1998) is a book of oral biography featuring the reminiscences of a generation of older women from the Kumaon Himalayas. Her other novels include »A Himalayan Love Story«, a haunting novel about romantic love and fatalism. She has also retold the Indian epic »The Mahabharata« for young readers, to be published soon. In addition to her literary œuvre, she is a director of Yatra Books, a recently established publishing company that co-publishes with Penguin Books in Hindi, Marathi and Urdu. Gokhale spends her time between New Delhi and the lake district of Kumaon, in the Himalayas. She is currently working on a new novel, a generational saga titled »Things to Leave Behind«, that examines continuity and change in the Indian subcontinent.

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