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Hari Kunzru


Hari Kunzru
Photo: Jamie Diamond

Hari Kunzru - Birth and Backgrount:

Hari Kunzru was born in London in 1969 and grew up in the county of Essex, England. After studying English at Oxford, he went on to receive a Masters degrees in Philosophy and Literature at the University of Warwick.

Hari Kunzru - Work and Writing:

During the 1990s, Kunzru worked primarily as a freelance journalist. He's written for Wired UK, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Times of India, and many other publications. From 1999 - 2004 he was the music editor of Wallpaper magazine.

At the age of 30, in 2002, Kunzru published The Impressionist, his first novel which won several prizes and was translated into 17 languages. The Impressionist featured a child protagonist, Pran Nath Razdan, whose half English, half Indian parentage finds him in the street at the age of 15, where he must learn to fend for himself. Pran Nath Razdan's path takes him from brothels and impoverished Bombay homes to Oxford and the world of his real father. The Impressionist was a critical success for Kunzru, and in 2004 he followed with Transmission.

The first half of Transmission centers on the story of Arjun Mehta, a geeky, day-dreaming Indian software engineer who believes in the corny promises of the oh-so-corny Bollywood film industry, and who also leads a quiet double life as renowned computer virus chef revered throughout the international hacker underground.

The second half of the novel introduces two new plot streams (which are only somewhat clumsily hinted at in the first half) to alternate with Arjun's story. We follow the demise of Guy Swift, an English entrepreneur and Tarantino buff whose PR firm is a top world-supplier of useless marketing rhetoric. And we observe the plight of bratty Leela Zahir, the Bollywood starlet who has, against her will, become the symbol for the collapse of international economic and communication systems. She falls into a self-indulgent stupor and puts on hold the Scottish-site production of her latest Bollywood blockbuster.

Kunzru's third novel, My Revolutions, is about a 1960s radical whose terrorist actions - which included Robin Hoodesque actions such as stealing from grocery stores to give away free food, but also far more harmful incidents in which buildings were left as rubble - while unbeknownst to the people in his quiet normal life (including his family), eventually catch up to him. Kunzru delights readers of My Revolutions by telling his hero's story as a series of flashbacks and keeping resolution unknown until the very last page.

Kunzru's 2011 novel (2012 in the U.S.), Gods Without Men alternates point of view between different characters to tell a whole story from various locations in both time and space. The primary story is that of Jas and Lisa, a young couple and their four year old autistic son, Raj. Other stories include that of a runaway rock star in decline and a hippie girl who falls in with an extraterrestrial worshipping cult.

In 2003, Granta magazine named Hari Kunzru one of its twenty best young British novelists. He's won numberous literary prizes including the Somerset Maugham award, the Betty Trask prize of the Society of Authors, a Pushcart prize and a British Book Award. Kunzru is the Deputy Prsident of English PEN.

Along with Indian writers, RuchirJoshi, Jeet Thayil and Amitava Kumar, Kunzru risked arrest at the Jaipur Literature Festival in 2012 by reading excerpts from Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, which is banned in India. Of the incident, Kunzru wrote, "Our intention was not to offend anyone's religious sensibilities, but to give a voice to a writer who had been silenced by a death threat."

You can learn more about Hari Kunzru's work at his website, www.harikunzru.com, and you can follow him on Twitter: @harikunzru.

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