23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Altaf Tyrewala
© Hartwig Klappert

Altaf Tyrewala

Altaf Tyrewala was born in the Indian city of Mumbai in 1977. From 1995 to 1999, he studied business economics at Baruch College in New York and earned a meager living doing part-time jobs. For him, this city became synonymous with »hunger, coldness, and backbreaking work« and he harbored an intense craving for his homeland – assuaged by reading books by novelists such as Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, and Rohinton Mistry before finally returning to Mumbai. It was only a small step from reading to writing. Altaf Tyrewala worked as a software specialist and published a few short stories in his spare time, and began working on his first novel in 2002. »No God in Sight« was published in 2005 making the author well-known overnight, not only in India, but also worldwide.
Originally, Tyrewala aspired to write a grandiose Pan-Indian epoch modeled after the literature of Rushdie. Then he realized that the reality of his starkly ghettoised birthplace called for fictionalising of a different kind. With its circa 17 million inhabitants, its various minorities and numerous languages, Mumbai reaches almost Babylonian proportions. The different sectors of the population are assigned to specific districts, and even those with money have difficulty getting past these invisible boundaries, which are as hard to break as the caste system. Altaf Tyrewala, who originates from a liberal Muslim family, writes in his first novel about the life experienced by Muslims who only have contact with Hindus at the edge of mainstream society. It’s remarkable that Tyrewala refrains from using a baroque, Oriental narrative style to depict the fate of his diverse horde of protagonists. Instead, he uses an extremely modern and sparse language likewise poetic and descriptive enough to allow the megacity’s fullness to unfold before our eyes in nearly two-hundred pages. Around forty characters make an appearance – some closely connected, others not – and, one by one, they share their lives in brief monologues. In this novel, he manages to capture the unbelievable differences that exist within a very narrow space. Currently, he is at work on his second novel, another story set in Mumbai and focused on investigating the social effects of globalisation.
Altaf Tyrewala has received critical acclaim worldwide. His role model, Salman Rushdie, called his literary debut: »A fiery work of great talent and esprit, inventive and written with an impressive lightness. The depth of his humanity opens up a world of intense and noteworthy existence«. The author divides his time between India and USA but is currently a guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program.

© internationales literaturfestival berlin


Kein Gott in Sicht
Frankfurt/Main, 2006
[Ü: Karin Rausch]

An Indian Porn Director’s Speech
to His Hesitant Leading Lady

In: First Proof 2
The Penguin Book of New Writing From India
Penguin Books India
Mumbai, 2006

Voices de la India
(de Tagore a Tyrewala)
[Hg: Michi Strausfeld]
Madrid, 2006
[Ü: María Corniero]

The Tehelka Book of Short Stories
[Hg: Jai Arjun Singh u. Nisha Susan]
Hachette India
Gurgaon, 2010

Mumbai Noir
[Hg: Altaf Tyrewala]
Akashic Books
New York, 2012