22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Shashi Tharoor

Portrait Shashi Tharoor
© Hartwig Klappert

The Indian writer and diplomat Shashi Tharoor was born in London in 1956. At the time his father was working for the English language Indian newspaper »The Statesman«. Tharoor studied in India and in the US, where at 22 he received a doctorate in Law and Diplomacy. He then worked for the United Nations. In the early 1980’s, during the crisis of the Vietnamese »boat people«, he was in charge of the UN refugee office in Singapore and later coordinated measures to secure peace in the former Yugoslavia. From 1997 to 1998 he was the assistant to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan; in 2002 Annan appointed him Under Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information at the UN.

Tharoor describes writing books and working for the UN as two equally important aspects of his responses to the world: »without either, a part of my psyche would wither on the vine.« He constantly adopts new approaches to one central topic: his native country, India. While he remains faithful to this one topic, he works with a variety of literary genres and in addition to novels writes newspaper articles, short stories, non-fiction and scholarly works. »The Great Indian Novel« (1989) is a modern ironic adaptation of the 2000-year-old national epic, the »Mahabharata«, and is narrated from a 20th-century viewpoint. »Show Business« (1992) – filmed in 1994 under the title »Bollywood« – is a satire on the Indian film industry. He has received numerous awards for his works, amongst them the Commonwealth Writers’« Prize in 1991.

Set against the background of religious tensions in India, Tharoor’s most recent novel »Riot. A Love Story« (2001) is about an American and a married government official who have a clandestine love affair.  In this book as in the work of nonfiction »India. From Midnight to the Millennium« (1997), Tharoor manages without a general narrative perspective. Instead he brilliantly combines fictional newspaper articles, diary entries, letters, and fragments from conversations in a collage, not only leaving it to the reader to decide which truth he or she would like to pursue, but also making it clear, that the reality of India, with its long and varied history and its current pluralisms and conflicts, is too complex to be reduced to a simple formula: »Whatever one might say about India – the opposite is also true«, says Tharoor.

 Tharoor lives in New York.