23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Amit Chaudhuri

Portrait Amit Chaudhuri
© Hartwig Klappert

The Indian writer and musician Amit Chaudhuri was born in 1962 in Kolkata and grew up in Mumbai. He studied English language and literature at University College London and wrote his doctorate on D. H. Lawrence in Oxford. For a number of years, he spent his time between India and Great Britain, and held a series of positions in Oxford and Cambridge. Forging affinities with the novels and theoretical writings of V. S. Naipaul, D. H. Lawrence and Jacques Derrida, it was in England that Chaudhuri began his writing career.

Published in 1991, his debut, »A Strange and Sublime Address«, and subsequent two novels, »Afternoon Raag« (1993) and »Freedom Song« (1998), depict the poetry of daily life in his native country, and the microcosm of a prototypical, middle class Indian family living in a big city, but in a way that focusses on a sense of the unfamiliar within a neighbourhood. He is less concerned with events and far more interested in observing his protagonists’ behavior and sentiments, and the role that the objects surrounding them have in their lives. »The Immortals« (2009) tells of a small, middle-class family from Bengal. In addition to the relationship between India and Europe and the social reality of Mumbai, it is music that takes center stage: the protagonist aspires to be a singer. Classical Indian music often plays an important role in the author’s works. Chaudhuri, a professional musician with two albums to his credit, is interested in finding commonalities between traditional North Indian and western music, rock and jazz. He has performed with musicians from both traditions at different international events. His novel »Odysseus Abroad« (2015) is a close reworking of Homer’s »Odyssey« and James Joyce’s »Ulysses«, set in a single day in London in July 1985. His most recent novel, »Friend of My Youth«, set in Bombay, and featuring an author called Amit Chaudhuri who is bereft at the absence of Ramu, a friend from school who is now a recovering addict, questions the demarcation between writing and living.

Chaudhuri’s work, which has been compared to that of Marcel Proust and James Joyce, has been awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for a debut (1992), the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (2000), the Indian Government’s Sahitya Akademi Award (2002), and the Infosys Prize in Humanities for outstanding contribution to literature (2013), among others. He is a critic for different English-language cultural publications and is considered a principal mediator of modern-day India. In 2002, Chaudhuri was a visiting professor at Columbia University, and in 2005 at the Freie Universität Berlin. He is now Professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of East Anglia. Chaudhuri is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he lives in Kolkata.