22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Suketu Mehta

Portrait Suketu Mehta
© Ulrich Schreiber

Suketu Mehta was born in Calcutta in 1963 and grew up in Mumbai before his family emigrated to the United States in 1977. He studied at New York University and took part in the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. In 2008, he became an Associate Professor at the Journalism Institute of New York University. Writings by Mehta have appeared in »The New York Times Magazine«, »Granta«, »Time«, »National Geographic«, and »Harpers Magazine«.

In 2004, he published the nonfiction book »Maximum City. Bombay Lost and Found«, for which he won the Kiriyama Prize and the Hutch Crossword Award. He was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 as well as for the Lettre Ulysses Prize, the BBC4 Samuel Johnson Prize, and the Guardian First Book Award. In »Bombay. Maximum City«, Mehta returns after 21 years to what, with 14 million residents, may be the world’s largest city, where he spent his childhood. In a mixture of thoroughly researched reportage and personal recollections, he reports on almost 800 pages about the political and criminal structures of the mega-metropolis, about its entertainment industry, which includes Bollywood, but also the city’s red light district, and about its specific characteristics found nowhere else in the world. A review in the »Frankfurter Rundschau« concluded that the book’s readers need patience, but are richly rewarded with a glimpse of what threatens us all if the globalization and urbanization of the world continues on their current trajectories. A critique in the »Süddeutsche Zeitung« praised Mehta’s courage and thirst for knowledge in visiting the shadow sides of the city and his overflowing affection for Mumbai’s residents, which could be one of the reasons why they are willing to tell him about their lives openly and honestly. A reviewer in »Die Tageszeitung«, in contrast, surmises that the illustrious interlocutors that Mehta can also present may have speculated that they would be eternalized in a film he would make.

And indeed, together with the author Vikram Chandra, Mehta wrote the script for the Bollywood film »Mission Kashmir« (2000). Eight years later, he contributed the chapter »Mira Nair« to the episodic film »New York, I Love You«, in which renowned directors like Fatih Akin and Brett Ratner also took part. A film adaptation of his first book, titled »Maximum City« is also in development. Mehta is currently working on a nonfiction book on today’s immigrants to New York; he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for this project in 2007. The author has received the Whiting Writers’ Award, the O. Henry Prize, and a grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts. Suketu Mehta lives in New York.