Dilip Chitre was born in Baroda, India, in 1938. During the latter part of his childhood he lived in Mumbai/Bombay. From 1975 to 1976 he participated in the International Writing Programme at the University of Iowa. He writes and translates in two languages: Marathi and English. Marathi, the official language of the Indian state of Maharashtra, established itself as a vernacular to compete with the elite Sanskrit. Today it is used by around 70 million people and ranks among the world’s 20 most-spoken languages. In 1994 Chitre won India’s national literature prize, the Sahitya Academy Award, for one of his collections of Marathi poetry. He also received a Sahitya Academy Award for his translation of 17th century poems by the Marathi poet Tukaram.
Chitre has published 18 books to date, most recently the translation of a 3200-line poem by Shri Jnandev, a 13th century Marathi poet. »Poetry has captivated me since I was 16,« admits the poet, artist and journalist, who is also a successful film director. He collaborated with Henning Stegmüller to produce the film: »Bombay: Geliebter Moloch« for the German television channel ZDF in 1995/96. »I have to do many different jobs to keep my head above the water.« Chitre has worked in Africa, the U.S. and various parts of India, and has taught at European and American universities. Later he lived in Poona, around 100 km east of Mumbai/Bombay, where he died in December 2009.
According to Lothar Lutze, who translates Chitre’s work into German, Marathi and English represent »two facets of his lyric ego: the Indian rooted in local tradition and the well-travelled cosmopolite.«
Chitres’s poetry and translations both demonstrate how productively he combines these two aspects. His creative renderings of Tukaram reincarnate the ancient Indian mystic as a relevant contemporary. Many of Chitre’s poems, on the other hand, present a personal image, reflected in the mirror of an alien city marked by social extremes. For European readers Mumbai/Bombay is an exotic and fascinating metaphor in which normal people cope with the familiar themes of daily routine, friendship and loss.
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