About

Once upon a time, there was a girl who climbed trees when she wanted to escape the world. In her soaring Branch Office, she hung out with the birds, and read books, and when she grew up, she finally began to write her own.

 

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Nilanjana S Roy lived in Delhi at a time when you could still hear jackal packs calling among the sugarcane fields near Safdarjung Airfield; in Calcutta when it had not yet become Kolkata; has lived a happily-ever-after year in Goa and would shift to the Himalayas in a heartbeat.

She is a novelist, writes columns and book reviews, has been a food writer, a travel writer, an editor, a publisher, was briefly a paralegal researcher, taught even more briefly in a nursery school and was for several years an intrepid blogger called Hurree Babu. She can drive, hike, swim, shoot (not animals) (or people) (and definitely not birds), cannot sing, is a passable cook, can grow vegetables and herbs, but not roses for some reason, has left it too late to get a tattoo but not too late to learn to scuba dive.

 

Novels:

The Wildings (2012); The Hundred Names of Darkness (2013)

“Nilanjana Roy’s novel is a delight to read. Eliot’s Old Possum would have enjoyed these Practical Indian Cats.” – Salman Rushdie

The Wildings won the Shakti Bhatt First Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the Commonwealth Book Prize among others. Environmental fable about a clan of cats in the rapidly changing Old Delhi neighbourhood of Nizamuddin, with dazzling guest appearances by tigers, a warrior mongoose, black kites and Doginder Singh.

Collections:

Patriots, Poets & Prisoners: Selections From Ramananda Chatterjee’s The Modern Review (2016)

“a must read for all interested in understanding the great debates and expositions that shaped discourse in India during four critical decades preceding Independence.” – Hiranmay Karlekar

“Every issue of the review packed a lot of intellectual punch. Besides the new Indian elite that devotedly followed The Modern Review every month, the British colonial authorities too read it closely to understand Indian nationalist opinion on contemporary issues.” – Niranjan Rajadhyaksha

The Girl Who Ate Books: Adventures in Reading (2016)

The Girl full cover.jpg

“A book so delicious it might make future bibliophagists of us all. Think of it as a guide to book lust, a compendium of Indian writing…” Tishani Doshi, The Hindu

A Matter of Taste: The Penguin Book of Indian Writing On Food (2004)

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“In the next lane, a puja was being held in the house of a rich man. When darkness fell, Apu could see a large number of guests going into the house to have dinner. What if…what if he slipped in with them? It was such a long time since he had been to a big dinner. Could he do it? Who would recognise him anyway?
Apu stood in his balcony, swinging between temptation and fear.” –

Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay

 

Essays and short stories in anthologies:

 tgwab-amby-detail

 

50 Writers, 50 Books: The Best of Indian Fiction (Edited by Pradeep Sebastian)

Chillies and Porridge: Writing Food

(Edited by Mita Kapur)

The Panchatantra (Puffin Classics, translated by Rohini Chowdhury,

Introduction by Nilanjana S Roy)

Some early short stories have been published in BeWitched!, Spooky Stories and ‘7’, by Scholastic India

 

Journalism and publishing:

 writeratlarge

 

  • FT Life & Arts columnist, Reading The World (2017-present)

https://www.ft.com/stream/101d0e64-c420-412a-98d3-cd5fa4d50030

  • Business Standard, columnist, books and the reading life
    Speaking Volumes, my weekly column on the reading life and Indian publishing, was the longest-running literary column in India’s English-language media.

https://www.business-standard.com/author/search/keyword/nilanjana-s-roy

  • Contributing opinion writer, New York Times, 2013-2014

https://www.nytimes.com/by/nilanjana-s-roy

  • Columnist, gender, International Herald Tribune, 2012-2010.

Covered issues ranging from sexual violence to the rights of domestic workers and the battle of Muslim women for legal equity, over a two-year period.

  • Chief Editor, Westland Books/ Tranquebar Press, 2007-2009.

Westland Books is one of India’s largest English-language publishing houses, with offices in Delhi and Chennai. As its first Chief Editor, I helped to put an ambitious literary fiction and non-fiction publishing programme in place, leaving in 2009 to pursue my own writing.

Essays and journalism have also been published in Al-Jazeera, Biblio, the BBC, Granta, The Hindu, Outlook, The Sunday Times and other media.

Residencies:

 2013-11-24 21.27.08

Arts and Literary Arts Writing Fellow, Rockefeller Center Foundation, 2013

Writer at Tranquebar, Sangam House Residency, 2011

Juries, Miscellaneous and The Odd Bits Box:

 

  • Served on the jury for the Crossword Book Awards (fiction) thrice; chair of the jury for the 1st DSC Prize in 2009; jury member, Hindu Literary Awards, 2011-2012; occasional selector for the Sangam House Residency and other international residencies and literary awards.
  • Was on the advisory board for the Neemrana Festival of Literature (2002) and various other literary festivals in India.
  • Frequent speaker and moderator at literature festivals from the Jaipur Literature Festival, the Times of India Literary Festival, Hindu Lit For Life to the FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival etc, and have television/ radio speaking experience.
  • Started and ran Kitabkhana (kitabkhana.blogspot.in), India’s first literary weblog, under the pseudonym Hurree Babu, 2003-2009.
  • PEN Centre, Delhi: Founding member of Delhi’s first PEN Centre for writers and journalists, along with Rachna Singh and others, contributor to PEN International reports on threats to media freedoms and artistic freedoms in India.

A few interviews about the books:

 

 

Parul Sehgal – The Art of the Review:
https://parulsehgal.com/2011/08/16/the-art-of-the-review-v-nilanjana-roy/

Tishani Doshi – Books For Breakfast:

http://www.thehindu.com/books/literary-review/tishani-doshi-interviews-nilanjana-roy-about-her-new-book-the-girl-who-ate-books/article8257147.ece

The New York Times: A Conversation with…

https://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/09/a-conversation-with-author-nilanjana-roy/

Writers At Work: Interview by Somak Ghoshal

https://www.livemint.com/Leisure/PWEOLnlq9fAVO0x7or74xL/Writers-At-Work–Nilanjana-Roy.html

Urvashi Bahuguna: The Broken Taar

http://helterskelter.in/2016/03/interview-nilanjana-roy-the-girl-who-ate-books/

 

10 comments

  1. Read Hundred Names in a straight four hours (in the train back from Jaipur; since I really couldn’t find space or time to read much in Jaipur itself this weekend) and loved it..slightly less than Wildings but that always happens to the younger sibling. My problems – I couldn’t understand why the Mara’s senses and the cats network didn’t stretch into the Golf Club if it could stretch all the way to Paolim, why was Magnificat so important to Mara and why darkness being your friend was so important to the plot?

  2. In a cafe I read your Oct. 2/3 FT comments. Went for hike up Mt. Tzouhalem, then to Alderlea Farm for dinner. Engaged momentarily with couple over antics of a sulking child. ”Where,’ I asked of the mother, ‘are you from?’ ‘India.’ ‘Oh, I was just reading a column by an Indian writer.’ ‘Who?’ I showed the mother the column; she chuckled. I indicated I [not a literary critic] might send a critique to the author. Mother’s response: ‘Mention,”You’re not from La Martiniere in Calcutta, are you?”‘ The parents are visiting from Tibet, They’re teachers, probably still with the Krishnamurti system. Anyway ‘Is it necessary … to shape real life into fiction? Yes;’ all fiction … draws from the truth., or it has no life to it.’ Couldn’t one also say that non-fiction does the same? Aside from protecting the innocent, what is it about moored-in-reality, and skillfully altered facts that is valuable? I think that novelists like anyone else are inquirers after meaning … meaning deemed interesting and valuable. The biographer renders a life but may bring extra meaning to the subject, for to any subject there is extra meaning. Any enterprise may need that dimension to have life. Your column has me thinking. Thanks! Peter

    • Dear Peter,

      My apologies for responding so late – I missed seeing about 20 comments in the Pending folder, and everyone who wrote in must have wondered why I hadn’t replied! To answer your question: yes, I am from La Martiniere! On fiction versus non-fiction – you’re very accurate on the shaping that goes into both kinds of writing. I must find the exact quote, but in one of Van Gogh’s letters, he writes that painting is not about translating reality – that would not be enough, to make an exact copy, one must go beyond towards a deeper meaning. As with art, so with writing.

      Many thanks,

      Nilanjana

  3. I am a fan of your column in the FT and enjoyed your 11-12 February article elucidating some of the greatest painters of the Mughal period. I am a London-based dealer in Indian miniature paintings, sourced from European and American collections, and you might be interested to look at our eighth annual exhibition as part of the New York Asia Week in March, where we will exhibit Indian Court Painting, spanning the Mughal and Rajput traditions as well as some Company School examples. As well as the traditional British, European and American collectors and museums who buy in this area, the last five years has seen a growing number of cognosenti from India. See http://www.asiaweekny.com and our catalogue will be uploaded on our own website towards the end of this month, http://www.forgelynch.com

    • This is such a late response, I’m sorry – I missed seeing some of the comments that had been posted. Thank you for letting me know about your work, though. I’d be happy to tell friends in London about your exhibitions and catalogues.

      Best wishes, Nilanjana

  4. Nilanjana, are you planning a sequel to The Hundred Names of Darkness? I’ve devoured The Wildings & its sequel….will there be a trilogy? Or perhaps a new tale, altogether?

    Kindest regards
    Marion

    • Thank you! (And apologies, I’d neglected this site because I’m working on something new. It’s not a Wildings novel, but I do hope to add a set of Monsoon-in-Corbett stories to the Hundred Names of Darkness family once this is done.)

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