Historian William Dalrymple referred to French as the “greatest biographer of our generation”
By: Kimberly Rodrigues
Patrick French, a renowned British author, historian, and academic, passed away in London on Thursday after a prolonged battle with cancer. He was 57 years old and is best known for his acclaimed biographies, “The World Is What It Is” and “India: A Portrait”, which chronicled the lives of VS Naipaul and India, respectively.
In 2017, French became the first dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Ahmedabad University and also held a visiting position at Ashoka University. His mother-in-law and co-founder of the Jaipur Literature Festival, Namita Gokhale, confirmed the news to PTI.
Meru Gokhale, former Editor in Chief at Penguin Random House India and Patrick French’s wife, shared that her beloved husband passed away in London at 8:10 am after a courageous fight against cancer.
She expressed that French was an extraordinary father, friend, husband, teacher, and mentor to many, and his loving and kind nature will be cherished forever. She also mentioned that he passed away peacefully without any suffering.
The late historian who was based in London held a Ph.D. in South Asian Studies and an MA in English and American Literature from the University of Edinburgh.
He was renowned for his in-depth analysis of India’s political and social landscape during the years preceding and following the nation’s independence in 1947, as well as the period following its economic liberalisation in the 1990s.
In addition to his literary and academic contributions, he also briefly ventured into politics, running as a Green Party candidate in the 1992 UK general election, albeit unsuccessfully.
French wrote several highly regarded books that have been translated into over a dozen languages. The renowned biographer received heartfelt tributes from various personalities, including Shashi Tharoor, Jairam Ramesh, Rahul Gandhi, William Dalrymple, Ramachandra Guha, and Aatish Taseer.
Dalrymple referred to French as the “greatest biographer of our generation”, while Guha praised French’s biographical works on Francis Younghusband and VS Naipaul as classics.
While Tharoor, Ramesh, and Gandhi expressed their deep sorrow over the loss of French. Taseer also paid tribute to French, describing him as a remarkable biographer, historian, essayist, and teacher.
(With inputs from PTI)