(LOS ANGELES TIMES) — For years, people who read Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s novels assumed she was born in India. She wrote about swamis, social climbers, duplicitous landlords and other characters from the Indian bourgeoisie who inevitably found themselves colliding with curious visitors from the West.
But Jhabvala was a Westerner herself: a German Jew displaced by war to England, who married an Indian man and settled in his country. She absorbed enough of subcontinental culture to portray it with clarity and comic sensibility in books that earned her comparisons to Jane Austen.
“What cheek, but that’s what I did,” she told an interviewer not long ago of the niche she created for herself in literature and later in film as the primary screenwriter for Merchant Ivory Productions.
Jhabvala, a prolific author who wrote the screenplays for “Howards End,” “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge” and “The Remains of the Day,” died Wednesday at her home in Manhattan. She was 85.
She had been in declining health for some time, said her daughter Firoza.