Neustadt International Prize

2012 - Rohinton Mistry

Born: July 3, 1952, Mumbai, India

Author's Quote : “Flirting with madness was one thing; when madness started flirting back, it was time to call the whole thing off.”

Field: Novelist - Historical Fiction and Literature

Prize share: 1/1

Books Written By Rohinton Mistry

About Rohinton Mistry

Rohinton Mistry is an Indian-born Canadian who writes in English. Mistry is of Indian origin, originally from Mumbai, and currently resides in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. He practises Zoroastrianism and belongs to the Parsi community.

He earned a BA in Mathematics and Economics from St. Xavier's College, Mumbai. He emigrated to Canada following with his wife-to-be Freny Elavia in 1975 and they married there shortly after his 1975, settling in Toronto where he studied at the University of Toronto and received a BA in English and Philosophy. He worked in a bank for a while, before returning to studies, leading up to a degree in English and philosophy.

While attending the University of Toronto he won two Hart House literary prizes (the first to win two), for stories which were published in the Hart House Review, and Canadian Fiction Magazine's annual Contributor's Prize for 1985. Two years later, Penguin Books Canada published his collection of 11 short stories, Tales from Firozsha Baag. It was later published in the United States as Swimming Lessons and Other Stories from Firozsha Baag. The book consists of 11 short stories, all set within one apartment complex in modern-day Mumbai. This volume contains the oft-anthologized story, "Swimming Lessons."

When his second book, the novel Such a Long Journey, was published in 1991, it won the Governor General's Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book, and the W.H. Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award. It was shortlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize and for the Trillium Award. It has been translated into German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Japanese, and has been made into the 1998 film Such a Long Journey.

His third book, and second novel, A Fine Balance (1995), won the second annual Giller Prize in 1995, and in 1996, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction. It was selected for Oprah's Book Club in November 2001 and sold hundreds of thousands of additional copies throughout North America as a result. It won the 1996 Commonwealth Writers Prize and was shortlisted for the 1996 Booker prize.

Family Matters is a consideration of the difficulties that come with ageing, which Mistry returned to in 2008 with the short fiction The Scream (published as a separate volume, in support of World Literacy of Canada, with illustrations by Tony Urquhart).

In 2002, Mistry cancelled his United States book tour for his novel Family Matters (2002) because he and his wife were targeted by security agents at every airport he visited, apparently because Mistry appeared to be Muslim. Mistry reported that on his first flight of the tour, "we were greeted by a ticket agent who cheerfully told us we had been selected randomly for a special security check. Then it began to happen at every single stop, at every single airport. The random process took on a 100 percent certitude."


A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

By E. Hardy

This is a truly great book. It chronicles the story of 4 individuals from very different sectors of the Indian Caste system. Not only does it accurately portray the political and social situation in India in the 1970s,it reflects the predudices within the upper castes and the fatalistic attitude of the lower castes, formed from their religious beliefs that suffering is their destiny and the reward will be in the afterlife.

This story is overwhelmingly sad and also shocking as the reader can identify the ethical question of human suffering for a possibly laudable goal (in this case it is population control). However, the novel is also uplifting in a peculiar way; that individuals who struggle so hard to exist in appalling conditions can find joy in their lives is humbling. It also allows the reader to identify with the predudices and to see a situation from another side. Maybe at the end of the book, the reader feels that they have grown a little in spirit and have the capacity to be a 'better' person as a result.

For me, the mark of a great book is one that remains with you long after the back page is read. This is such a book.


A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

By Miss Kiki

I was recommended this book over a year ago by someone who told me it was the best book he had ever read. Naturally I was intrigued and made a mental note to read it.

Finally about three weeks ago I bought the book while in India and read it within a few days. From the outset I was completely mesmerised. Mistry describes ordinary life in 1970s Mumbai (the name of the city is never mentioned but one can tell it is Mumbai from various references to parts of the city) with amazing clarity and insight; the characters are very real and I felt as though I was part of the story myself rather than just the reader of it.

I found this book totally absorbing: funny, uplifting, often shocking and ultimately tragic.

I've been thinking about it a lot since finishing it and after much consideration I think I have to agree that it is the most amazing book I've ever read...