Rohinton Mistry, short-story writer and novelist, was born in Bombay, India, and immigrated to Canada two years after graduating from university. He completed a second undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, while studying literature, began to write and publish his first stories, garnering two Hart House Literary Prizes and the 1985 Annual Contributor's Award from Canadian Fiction Magazine. These award-winning stories appear in Mistry's first book, Tales from Firozsha Baag (1987), in which he combines the immediacy of daily life in a Bombay apartment building with the perspective some of his characters achieve after immigrating to their new home in Canada. The interrelated stories cover a broad range of subjects and tones: from poignant to surreal, ghostly to hilarious.
Such a Long Journey
Bombay is also the setting of Mistry's first novel, Such a Long Journey (1991). Here, however, the social conditions that provided a distant backdrop to the short stories now bear upon a particular Bombay family. The novel 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 also shortlisted for Britain's prestigious Booker Prize. A film version of Such a Long Journey was released in 1998.
A Fine Balance
In Mistry's second novel, A Fine Balance (1995), the abuses of political power threaten to destroy the dignity of the individual. Set against the Emergency Measures imposed by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the mid-1970s, the novel is a powerful and painful examination of a humanity beset by social and political repression. A Fine Balance met with high critical acclaim and won many international honours, the Giller Prize and the Commonwealth Writer's Award. Multitudes of readers across North America were introduced to Mistry's work when A Fine Balance became the first Canadian novel to be promoted through Oprah Winfrey's Book Club.
Family Matters was published in 2002 and won the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize, amongst many other honours. The story is set, again, in Bombay and focuses on the past and present life of a retired professor, Nariman Vakeel, and his difficult, complicated familial relationships. Like Mistry's other works, the novel has been praised by reviewers for both its intimate portrayals of individuals and its universal, sweeping themes and concerns. Mistry consistently demonstrates in his fiction that he is a writer who is able to produce both the sharply focused close-ups and broad landscapes of humanity.