​Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Oscar-Winning Screenwriter, Dies At 85

Author: John LesterBy:
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April 4, 2013
Also: Howards End, Ismail Merchant, James Ivory, Merchant Ivory Productions, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

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Ruth Prawer Jhabvala has died at 85. She was an Oscar-winning screenwriter known for her collaborations with Merchant Ivory Productions and a prolific novelist.

Jhabvala died on Wednesday in Manhattan.

As a screenwriter, she is tied to the productions by James Ivory and Ismail Merchant. Her relationship with the duo, which covered 20 films, started with their adaptation of her 1960 novel The Householder. She went on to write their adaptations of E.M. Forster’s Howards End and A Room With A View, winning Oscars for both. But her life was much more than just those films.

The Los Angeles Times notes that she was born a German Jew and fled to England. She married an Indian man and lived there, bringing her experiences to her work. She never felt like she was established in any one place, telling the LA Times in 1993, “I’m a born outsider.”

She won the Booker Prize for 1975’s Heat and Dust, a novel that Ivory filmed as well. The book centers on a woman’s trip to India, where she uncovers a family scandal.

Even as her health declined recently, she continued to write. The New Yorker notes that her 31st story for the magazine, The Judge’s Will, was just published last month. She also wrote the screenplay to Ivory’s 2009 film, The City of Your Final Destination.

Jhabvala is survived by her husband, their three daughters – Renana, Ava and Firoza – and six grandchildren.