Lettre Ulysses Award for the art of reportage

Pankaj Mishra, India

"Culturally speaking, India is much more dependent on the West today than in previous times. The nationalistic faction that split apart from the independence movement had practically been defeated. I belong to a globalized generation and mostly grew up with Russian and European literature. I write for people that have read the same books as me, Flaubert, Turgenjev and Chekhov for example, from whom I myself have learned."

Writer, literary critic, and lecturer. Pankaj Mishra was born in 1969 in India. His childhood and adolescence were spent in the Northern Indian province of Uttar Pradesh. Mishra first graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce from the Allahabad University before completing his MA in English Literature at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. He wrote his first novel when he was only seventeen years old, and two further novels followed, although none have been published.

In 1992, he moved to Mashobra where he began working as a literary critic for The Indian Review of Books and for the newspaper The Pioneer. His travel book, Butter Chicken in Ludhiana: Travels in Small Town India (1995), describes the profound changes taking place in rural Indian towns.

Mishra’s first international breakthrough came in 1999 with the publication of his novel The Romantics. The book’s main protagonist is a young Brahmin intellectual named Samar, who stumbles upon a group of Western dropouts. The ensuing friendship provides Samar with a fresh, more serious look at life, and he begins an erratic journey in search of himself. The novel was an international success and has been translated into eleven European languages.

Mishra contributes book reviews and political essays to a number of journals, including The New York Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Times and the New Statesman. Working as an editor for Harper Collins, he is credited with having discovered Arundhati Roy’s exceptional novel The God of Small Things. Mishra has also written an introduction to V.S. Naipaul’s latest travel book The Writer and the World: Essays. He speaks Urdu, Hindi and English.

Mishra is currently working on projects such as How to be Modern: Travels in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan (2005), The Rise of Modern India (2006), as well as a book on Buddha entitled An End to Suffering: the Buddha in the World, which will be published in October 2004. He states: “I would like to express much more than is possible in a novel. I grew up where Buddha walked the earth, 2,500 years ago. For me, this region represents history; possibly the only one with which I feel a bond.”

Pankaj Mishra lives between New Delhi, Shimla, and London.


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"There is a frustrating lack of narratives, narratives as a body of words that can connect us in this part of the world, in Europe, in the West, in the North, to someone else, somewhere else, to the “other side”."Pedro Rosa Mendes (jury member 2003, 2004, 2005 & 2006)