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The Schweitzer Fürstenheim Family
Summons to Berlin: Nazi Theft and a Daughter’s Quest for Justice
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with Fawzia Afzal-Khan
Told in alternating chapters, Heat and Dust moves between the 1920s and the 1970s as an unnamed narrator recounts the scandalous history of her step-grandmother and her own parallel experiences in India. In the 1920s thread of the novel, Olivia, a young and rather vacuous English bride, becomes bored with the narrow life of an imperial civil administrator’s wife, and seeks adventure in the company of the Nawab, a dangerously charming minor royal, described as “the worst type of ruler – the worst type of Indian – you can have”. Their relationship leads to a scandal that echoes down the decades to the narrator’s generation. She sets out to explore the places where the family secrets were first played out, armed with some papers and letters from Olivia to her sister Marcia, letters which are retold as the earlier part of the story. As she discovers more, she finds herself increasingly identifying the story of Olivia in her own experience of India.(Description: The Reading Bug).
Ruth Prawer was born into a German-assimilated Jewish family in Cologne in 1927. The family fled to Britain in April 1939. In 1948 her father committed suicide on learning on the fate of most of his family in the Holocaust.
She graduated in English Literature in 1951 from Queen Mary College in London. On graduation she married Cyrus Jhabvala, an Indian architect; the couple moved to Delhi. It was in India she became an accomplished writer of numerous novels as well as screenplays. She is perhaps best remembered for the screenplays she wrote for Merchant Ivory in the 1980s, including A Room With a View and Howard's End, both of which won her Academy Awards. Her novel Heat and Dust was the winner of the Booker Prize in 1975. This same year Jhabvala moved from India to the United States, living in New York until her death in 2013.
Fawzia Afzal-Khan is Professor of English, University Distinguished Scholar, and former Director of Women and Gender Studies (now called Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies) at Montclair State University. Afzal-Khan received her BA from Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore, Pakistan, and her MA and PhD in English Literature from Tufts University, Ma. She is a cultural materialist who works at the intersection of Feminist Theory, Cultural and Performance Studies, and Postcolonial Studies. She is a Contributing Editor to TDR (The Drama Review) and serves on the Advisory Board of SAR (the South Asian Review), and on the Editorial Board of Arab Stages. She is winner of a Fulbright Specialist fellowship AY 2015-2020, lecturing at various universities in Pakistan. She is the author of four monographs and two edited anthologies. Finally, she is also a trained vocalist in the North Indian Classical tradition. We look forward to having her join us.