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At the End of the Century

The Stories of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

With an Introduction by Anita Desai

List Price: $16.95

June 11, 2019 | Paperback | 5.5 x 8.25, 448 pages | ISBN 9781640093249
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New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice

Multilayered, subtle, insightful short stories from the inimitable Booker Prize–winning author, with an introduction by Anita Desai

Nobody has written so powerfully of the relationship between and within India and the Western middle classes than Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. In this selection of stories, chosen by her surviving family, her ability to tenderly and humorously view the situations faced by three (sometimes interacting) cultures—European, post-Independence Indian, and American—is never more acute.

In “A Course of English Studies,” a young woman arrives at Oxford from India and struggles to adapt, not only to the sad, stoic object of her infatuation, but also to a country that seems so resistant to passion and color. In the wrenching “Expiation,” the blind, unconditional love of a cloth shop owner for his wastrel younger brother exposes the tragic beauty and foolishness of human compassion and faith. The wry and triumphant “Pagans” brings us middle-aged sisters Brigitte and Frankie in Los Angeles, who discover a youthful sexuality in the company of the languid and handsome young Indian, Shoki. This collection also includes Jhabvala’s last story, “The Judge’s Will,” which appeared in The New Yorker in 2013 after her death.

The profound inner experience of both men and women is at the center of Jhabvala’s writing: she rivals Jane Austen with her impeccable powers of observation. With an introduction by her friend, the writer Anita Desai, At the End of the Century celebrates a writer’s astonishing lifetime gift for language, and leaves us with no doubt of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s unique place in modern literature.

“The stories―all of them elegantly plotted and unsentimental, with an addictive, told-over-tea quality―are largely character studies of people isolated, often tragically, by custom or self-delusion . . . Vivid, unsparing portraits are leavened with the kind of humanizing moments that evoke a total world within their compression.” ―Megan O’Grady, The New York Times Book Review

RUTH PRAWER JHABVALA, born in 1927, wrote numerous novels and short stories, and in collaboration with James Ivory and Ismail Merchant, she won two Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay (for Howards End and A Room with a View). She won the Booker Prize in 1975 for Heat and Dust. She died in 2013.

ANITA DESAI was born in 1937 in Mussoorie, India. Her novels include Fire on the Mountain—which won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize—Clear Light of DayIn Custody, and Fasting, Feasting, each of which was short-listed for the Booker Prize. Her latest novel is The Artist of Disappearance.

Praise

Praise for At the End of the Century

New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice

“The stories—all of them elegantly plotted and unsentimental, with an addictive, told-over-tea quality—are largely character studies of people isolated, often tragically, by custom or self-delusion . . . Vivid, unsparing portraits are leavened with the kind of humanizing moments that evoke a total world within their compression.” —Megan O’Grady, The New York Times Book Review

At the End of the Century gathers seventeen stories, dating from Jhabvala’s first collection, in 1963, to ‘The Judge’s Will,’ published in this magazine two weeks before her death. They invite a face-to-face meeting with a literary figure who deserves to be reckoned with on her own terms . . . Anita Desai notes in the introduction to this collection that it was Jhabvala’s ‘fate to be presented to Western readers as a Jane Austen.’ Jhabvala’s prose does share Austen’s acerbic wit and a well-cadenced fluency, confident in the strength of syntax to sustain explication—and comedy—without flashy language.” —Maya Jasanoff, The New Yorker

“To read Ruth Prawer Jhabvala is to regard the human heart through a magnifying glass . . . The 17 stories gathered in At the End of the Century are no exception, taking an intimate look at the complex modus operandi of love between siblings, paramours, and strangers . . . The elegant, clear-eyed fiction Jhabvala left behind shows us the very things her characters can’t—or choose not to—perceive: Love is a power dynamic, and it’s rarely diplomatic.” —Claire Luchette, O, The Oprah Magazine

“Beautifully curated selection of some of her most celebrated writing . . . The questions her stories raise—about belonging, desire and the boundaries of love—feel as contemporary as great literature always does . . . This posthumous collection is a wonderful reintroduction to one of the 20th century’s great female writers and a deliciously intersectional and thoughtful passage to her India.” —Bilal Qureshi, The Washington Post

At the End of the Century provides a good starting point for anyone wishing to dip into Jhabvala’s oeuvre, and it stands on its own in its grappling with issues of love, family, white savior complexes and postcolonialism.” —Ilana Masad, Los Angeles Times

At the End of the Century packages the writer for a new audience, in a new time . . . Jhabvala writes how people talk, or how people used to talk. Her stories bespeak a slice of time during which people could both interact with others quite unlike them and talk with the expectation of privacy with people quite like them: a world post–Wright brothers, pre-internet.” —Mallika Rao, The Atlantic

“A new selection of stories from Jhabvala (1927–2013) that offers plentiful reasons to celebrate her brilliance . . . Jhabvala has Alice Munro’s gift for making you feel you’re reading a novel in miniature as she distills to their essence broad expanses of geography, personal history and time . . . The results are captivating.” —Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times

“These stories show the same elegance that marked Jhabvala’s film collaborations with producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory. At the End of the Century is a treasure for readers who savor quiet works of fiction and a fitting tribute to one of the most perceptive and sensitive writers of the 20th century.” —Houston Chronicle

“The collection is mammoth in scope . . . In their own way, each story furnishes the emotional scope of a novel and encapsulates lives in their entirety.” —Rachel Aydt, The Brooklyn Rail

“A vital voice of the 20th century, and often considered Austen-esque in her writing, this collection is a collectible.” —Sana Goyal, HuffPost India

“Jhabvala was an absolute gift to the world.” —Bustle

“A career-spanning collection of stories about the collision of East and West . . . Compelling in their elegance and for Jhabvala’s poised, precise eye, which stays consistent and steady through the decades.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A young German Jewish refugee in England in the 1940s, a resident of India for two dozen years, and a New Yorker from the mid-1970s until her death in 2013, Jhabvala triangulated her three adopted cultures in the 17 enthralling stories gathered in this sterling retrospective collection. This triad is also explored in the many startling ménage-à-trois variations she dramatizes with lyric sensitivity and steely irony . . . Jhabvala was a spellbinding short story writer of fluid empathy, exceptional cross-cultural insight, and abiding respect for unconventional love . . . This is a richly captivating, revelatory, and important collection.” —Booklist (starred review)

“A magnificent selection of the Booker winner’s short stories . . . A richly enjoyable reminder of Jhabvala’s keenly observant talent.” —Sunday Times (UK)

“The 17 stories in At The End of the Century . . . chronicle Jhabvala’s concern with cultural encounters, dislocation and the immigrant experience. Misogyny – and sensuality – bubble up through impeccably constructed pros.” —New Statesman (UK)

“The laser-sharp intelligence of award-winning novelist and short story writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala is etched into these 17 compelling tales.” —Anita Sethi, Observer (UK)

Praise for Out of India

“These stories do not demystify India; they pay the place tributes of empathy and grace.” —Time Magazine

” . . . There is not a shoddy line or unnecessary word here; the book has the hallmark of balance, subtlety, humor and beauty.” —New York Times Book Review

“The writing is brilliant. The reader feels the excitement of seamlessly knitted images that grow, one out of another, into a woven cloth of world.” —The Village Voice 

“[A] collection of rare and exotic quality.” —Boston Herald

“Erotic, languorous tales, beautiful, haunting, finely crafted and memorably described.” —The Dallas Morning News

“These stories are well-crafted and poignant. The characters become, to use a Jhabvala image, lighted candles burning in the windows of the world.” —The Seattle Times

“In plain, unassuming prose that doesn’t altogether conceal the tears and laughter that give it urgency, the story of many different Indias unfolds in these 15 tales . . . All the stories, unrelated but focusing on the search for a quiet center that justifies disjointed and woebegone lives, are woven together in a glowing tapestry enriched by profound knowledge, humor and compassion.” —Publishers Weekly

Praise for East Into Upper East

“Each story reveals Jhabvala’s mastery of the form: the sleek economy of words, free of heavy symbolism of easy judgments, that allows her to home in on small, telling details.” —Deborah Mason, The New York Times Book Review

” . . . [H]er portraits of the compromises people make and the obligations they carry rarely miss their mark. . . . You won’t find a storybook ending in any of Jhabvala’s tales, but neither will you find the certitude of the cynic. Most of all, Jhabvala is an observer. As readers, we are thankful for her unique perspective and measured gaze, which, though it may sadden and challenge us, never fails to enlighten.” —Joanna Slater, Far Eastern Economic Review

” . . . rich in character, observation and insight. Jhabvala deftly captures the dilemmas of people who straddle cultural divides: occidental and oriental, colonized and ‘free,’ traditional fealties and market capitalism. Her stories are ‘plain’ finally because they are never flashy or postmodern. Instead, they study the wellsprings of character and the pressures of society that make people behave in often self-destructive or hurtful ways.” —Publishers Weekly 

“Jhabvala characters, drawn through expert observation and unique insight, experience universal struggles and triumphs, whether they’re in a crowded bazaar in an Indian city or a Manhattan apartment. Jhabvala conveys most effectively the psychology of the family, including the fragile and emotionally charged relationships between mothers and sons and between fathers and daughters. Her collection offers a skillful blend of East and West and a profound understanding of the collective trials of the human experience. Highly recommended.” —Dianna Moeller, Library Journal

“Each piece of Jhabvala’s worldly mosaic offers precise, subtle views of people who are trying to make the best of their lives: their essential humanity remains compelling, even if their circumstances sometimes seem too much alike.” —Kirkus Reviews

Praise for My Nine Lives

“Jhabvala’s body of work is certainly informed by a Central European sensibility as well as by her English education, but India figures prominently, too. At once repulsive and seductive, it lures the young, restless and idealistic with its tradition of spirituality, disorienting, in the end, even the most seasoned and jaded foreigners. ” —The Washington Post

“Each work has her hallmark of balance, subtlety, wry humor and beauty.” —New York Times Book Review

“Magical. . . . Jhabvala is one of those rare writers who manages to be simultaneously caustic and loving with her creations.” —Wall Street Journal

“An accomplished, unusual and deeply personal book.” —The Economist

“At 77, Jhabvala is writing at the top of her form, probing the deep questions of life and love with shrewd intelligence, rueful humor, compassionate understanding and insight tempered by long experience.” —Los Angeles Times

“She has been awarded all sorts of prizes and is held in the highest esteem by critics all over the world. Jhabvala’s fiction serves, always, to remind us of the universal vulnerability of mankind.” —Boston Globe

“Jhabvala has unleashed her imagination to rewrite her own past . . . each story is sinewy with compressed emotion and intellectual energy, as well as the poignancy of the thwarted search for love. Each can stand on its own as a finely crafted example of an accomplished storyteller’s art.” —Publishers Weekly

“Jhabvala is spellbinding, whether she’s writing her celebrated fiction or Academy Award-winning screenplays, and she now presents nine splendid variations on nine women’s lives that in some measure reflect key aspects of her own.” —Booklist

Praise for A Lovesong for India

“Ruth Prawer Jhabvala [is] a prodigious talent . . . India is here in full Technicolor, but so are Piccadilly and Park Avenue. This writer’s genius—unlike Conrad’s or Forster’s or even Austen’s—is that she points out how essentially similar insiders and outsiders can be.” —Washington Post

“Jhabvala writes with great precision; she never wastes words. The story will be told with a simplicity beneath which glints complexity, and the characters will be sketched in, then filled out, with a descriptive phrase, a few words about how they look or behave, and most of all with what they say. Economy, concision, defining dialogue—these stories display Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s crucial skills to wonderful effect.” —The Guardian

“If these 11 exquisitely crafted stories are indeed love songs, they sing not so much of India as of the vulnerability of the human heart . . . acclaimed novelist and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala sketches, with a few deft strokes, the longings and losses of people she encountered or perhaps imagined . . . Her stories speak to the essential impossibility of ever really knowing, let alone owning, another human being, especially someone you dearly love.” —Philadelphia Inquirer

“Jhabvala demonstrates the concise and detached writing style for which she is known and praised. Her reputation alone ought to be enough to recommend this collection, but its energy, subtlety, and beauty legitimize its place in all fiction collections.” —Library Journal

” . . . A cinematic quality . . . The opulent setting and plot twists are noteworthy . . . Jhabvala’s exquisite sensibilities promise a more satisfying engagement.” —Publishers Weekly

More Praise for Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

“A brilliant storyteller.” —Guardian 

“[P]leasure to read. . . . A gift for tackling the messiness of human lives . . . ” —Nilanjana Roy, Financial Times

“Jhabvala’s concern with cultural encounters, dislocation and the immigrant experience. Misogyny—and sensuality—bubble up through impeccably constructed pros.” —New Statesman

“The laser-sharp intelligence of award-winning novelist and short story writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala is etched into these 17 compelling tales.”―Anita Sethi, Observer

“A writer of genius . . . A writer of world class—a master storyteller.” —Sunday Times

“Her tussle with India is one of the richest treats of contemporary literature.” —The Guardian

“Brutally honest, these stories cut straight to the heart of the matter.” —The Good Book Guide

“Seductive . . . intelligent and frank . . . Jhabvala’s troubled fragments provide consolation, not in art, but in the understanding that differences between continents and cultures cannot deny the common core of human yearnings.” —Times Literary Supplement

“An allusiveness, a susceptibility to mood, a tenderness to which Chekhov was the exemplar.” —V. S. Pritchett, author of Lasting Impressions

“Marvellous . . . each story perfectly constructed and complete.” —Jane Gardam, author of Last Friends

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