22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Omair Ahmad

Portrait Omair Ahmad
© Hartwig Klappert

Omair Ahmad was born in Aligarh in 1974. Although literature was an important part of his family life, like many children from developing countries, his training was primarily in sciences. His father was a petroleum engineer and this led the family across India and then later to Saudi Arabia, where Ahmad enrolled in the American Embassy school. On the family’s return to India he attended another international school, where he finished his schooling with a focus on Calculus, Physics and Chemistry, although he also received the annual writing award. This was in the early 1990’s and India, especially North India, experienced a large number of religious riots instigated by rising political parties, which left thousands dead in their aftermath. Ahmad left his science degree and switched his focus to Political Science, History and Literature. After his Bachelor’s degree, he gained admission in India’s prestigious Jawaharal Nehru University to study International Studies. He did a second degree in International Relations from Syracuse University (NY, USA) with a focus on Kashmir. Since then he has worked in thinktanks, with government missions, and as a journalist.
His first novel, »Encounters« (2008), dealt with the theme of radicalisation among middle class young. His second book, a novella titled »The Storyteller’s Tale« (2009), used the background of the 19th Century sack of New Delhi by the Afghan warlord Ahmad Shah Abdali as a backdrop, and focussed on how we exchange stories of love & friendship with our enemies. His latest novel, »Jimmy the Terrorist« (2010), showcased the history of a neighbourhood in a small town that leads to one particular incident, which is overwhelmed by media interest in terrorism. It has been widely reviewed, especially because of its focus on a very current theme. The Indian Express, one of India’s leading newspapers, stated, »As in his earlier book, The Storyteller’s Tale, Ahmad delights in nuanced prose and interiority − his characters often confine themselves to a room and confabulate with themselves in the chaotic recesses of their mind. And, finally, Ahmad dangles the question that attaches itself to all stories: what is the truth in all this?«
Ahmad’s first novel received little notice, but his second was a critical and commercial success, and whose French, German and Spanish rights are being produced. The manuscript of his third book was shortlisted for the Man Asian Prize in 2009, and in 2010 was published under Penguin’s Hamish Hamilton imprint, under which Penguin publishes a select list of authors in India such as Orhan Pamuk, Zadie Smith, Arundhati Roy and John Updike. He currently handles the Kashmir and Tibet programmes for the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in South Asia and lives in New Delhi.

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