Raj Kamal Jha was born in Bihar in 1966 and grew up in Calcutta. He studied Mechanical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur. At the same time he published first texts in the students’ journal »Alankar«. After his graduation he continued his studies in an academic field that corresponded to his real interests and his enthusiasm for writing. He applied for a scholarship in order to attend the journalists’ school at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he passed his Masters Degree in 1990. He then worked for various American newspapers, including the »Los Angeles Times« and the »Washington Post«. He returned to India and was employed as a news editor by the English-language newspaper »The Statesman«. He subsequently worked for »India Today« and »The Indian Express«. He is an editor-in-chief with the latter today.
In addition to his journalistic activities, Jha has published three novels so far, which gained the acclaim of the critics and the readers. A significant feature of his prose is the fact that he decided to write in English, which is partly due to the fact that he spent some time in the USA. However, the more important reason for him is the aesthetic possibilities the language offers. His role models are Salman Rushdie, Paul Auster and other eminent writers. His debut novel »The Blue Bedspread« (1999) began with a series of fragments, which he had published in the anthology »Civil Lines« and other books, and a London-based publisher soon became interested in his manuscript. In this restless book, which is marked by powerful language, a nameless narrator one evening learns of the sudden death of his sister. He decides to take care of her newborn child, and begins to write down the story of his life. While the protagonist reflects upon his family and his past, the motivation of why a person writes is exemplified on the meta-level in a fascinating way. Jha’s debut received the Commonwealth Writers’ Award for Best First Book and other prizes, and was praised by the »New York Times« as a »Notable Book of the Year«. In »If You Are Afraid of Heights« (2003) three plots are subtly combined. Jha’s novels, which have been translated into more than a dozen languages, are often influenced by his work as a journalist and deal with contemporary India. In his recent book »Fireproof« (2006) he discusses, for example, the fateful riots in Ahmedabad in 2002. Raj Kamal Jha is currently a scholar of the DAAD Artists’ Programme in Berlin.
© internationales literaturfestival berlin