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Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, award winning novelist and screenwriter, dies at 85

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, award winning novelist and screenwriter, dies at 85

Award winning novelist and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala has died in at home in New York aged 85. She is perhaps best known for her work with Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, with whom she worked as a screenwriter on 22 films, including adaptations of EM Forster’s A Room with A View (1985) and Howard’s End (1992), and Kazuo Ishiguro’s 1989 Booker Prize winner The Remains of the Day (1993). She is the only person to have won both the Booker Prize and an Oscar.


Born in Germany in 1927 to Jewish parents, her family fled to Britain in the 1930s where she later became a British citizen. Following her marriage to Cyrus Jhabvala, a Parsee architect, in 1951, she moved to India and it was there she wrote and set many of her early  novels, including her 1975 novel Heat and Dust, which won the Booker Prize that year. She later won a BAFTA award for Best Screenplay for the Merchant Ivory adaptation of the book in 1984, starring Julie Christie, alongside numerous other awards for her film work, including Oscars for Howard’s End and A Room with a View.


Her former publisher Nick Perren has paid tribute to Jhavbala, telling the BBC: ‘She gave the impression of being quite withdrawn but she was extraordinarily interested in people. She was an accurate commentator on the world around her. She had the rare gift of observation that comes from people born into a completely different culture who have had to learn a new language.’