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Ruth Prawer Jhabvala papers

Identifier: Coll 457

Scope and Contents

Collection comprises the papers of novelist and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, including original screenplay drafts, notes, personal research documents, completed screenplays, writing agreements, and correspondence relating primarily to Merchant Ivory Productions from 1965 to 2009.

A bulk of the collection is comprised of multiple handwritten drafts of Merchant Ivory Productions film screenplays, with notes and revisions by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, as well as bound deliverable screenplays. Also included in the collection are research materials collected by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala to provide background for screenplays, including brochures, articles, novels, and essays. Correspondence is primarily with James Ivory and various producers, with a focus on writing agreements and script revisions.

Collection includes a small assortment of work not produced for Merchant Ivory Productions, including drafts of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's novels, screenplays produced for other production companies, a script for a radio "portrait" of Mahatma Gandhi, and other potential projects that did not come to fruition.

The Personal Series contains assorted writings by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, either unassociated with productions or unidentifiable as such, as well as tributes in other publications.

The Photographs Series contains photographs taken in honor of the Golden Bowl; from the film Jefferson in Paris , for which Jhabvala wrote the screenplay; and of a personal nature.


  • Creation: 1973-2011


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical / Historical

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, was a noted novelist, and writer of short stories and film scripts. For many years she was associated closely with the film makes James Ivory and Ismail Merchant.

She was born on May 7, 1927 in Cologne, Germany to a Jewish family that had immigrated from Poland. In 1939, when she was twelve, the family fled Hitler’s Germany to England where she experience the Blitz at times living in an air raid shelter. She quickly learned to speak English and began writing short stories. On coming of age, she attended the University of London and graduated in 1951 with a degree in English literature.

In the same year she married the Indian architect, Cyrus Jhabvala, and moved to Delhi, India. Here she assumed the roles of housewife and continued writing. Over a period of twenty-four years she raised three daughters and found time to write a number of novels. In the 1960s she began her association with James Ivory and Ismail Merchant when she wrote the screenplay for her novel, The Householder. This was followed by Shakespeare Wallah, both films receiving critical acclaim. In all, she collaborated in writing twenty-three Merchant-Ivory screenplays and won academy awards for two of them: Room with a View in 1986 and Howards End in 1993, both adaptations of E.M. Forster novels. She also won the Booker Prize for her novel Heat and Dust in 1975, also a film by Merchant-Ivory.

During her early years in India she immersed herself in the country: she wore a sari and love the blue skies, its smells of spices, and exotic temples. Her early novels reflected this fascination and were about the life and customs of India and the westernized Indian middle-class and their struggles. Later her attitude about India changed as she was moved by the poverty and misery she saw all around her along with the heath and filth. Her later novels were treated harshly by the Indian critics who considered her an outsider and accused her of holding colonial attitudes towards the country.

In the 1970s she decided to spend part of her year in New York and the other in Delhi with her husband. In New York City she purchased an apartment in close proximity to those owned by Ivory and Merchant. Here the creative triad, now in close consultation with each other, continued to make prize winning films for over forty years. She became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1986. Moving to New York also made her feel connected to her early life and those she once knew in Cologne. She was known to say “Once a refugee, always a refugee.” She continued writing, submitting many short stories to The New Yorker magazine and publishing works of fiction about the immigrant experiences in America.

She died on April 3, 2013 at the age of 85 of a pulmonary condition. She is survived by three daughters: Renana, Firoza, and Ava, and six grandchildren.

Biography written by Richard Yates.


19 linear feet (36 containers )

Language of Materials



Collection comprises the papers of novelist and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, including original screenplay drafts, notes, personal research documents, completed screenplays, writing agreements, and correspondence relating primarily to Merchant Ivory film productions from 1965 to 2009.


Collection is organized into the following series:

Series I: Produced Films Subseries A: Shakespeare Wallah Subseries B: The Guru Subseries C: Roseland Subseries D: The Europeans Subseries E: Jane Austen in Manhattan Subseries F: Quartet Subseries G: Heat and Dust Subseries H: The Bostonians Subseries I: A Room With a View Subseries J: Madame Sousatzka Subseries K: Mr. and Mrs. Bridge Subseries L: Howard's End Subseries M: Remains of the Day Subseries N: Jefferson in Paris Subseries O: Surviving Picasso Subseries P: A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries Subseries Q: The Golden Bowl Subseries R: Le Divorce Subseries S: The City of Your Final Destination

Series II: Unproduced Films Subseries A: How I Became a Holy Mother Subseries B: Art Thief Subseries C: Krishnamurti Subseries D: Independent People Subseries E: The Aspern Papers Subseries F: Three Continents

Series III: Writing Agreements

Series IV: Radio Scripts

Series V: Unfulfilled Projects Subseries A: The Wings of the Dove Subseries B: The Great Gatsby Opera

Series VI: Personal

Series VII: Miscellaneous

Series VIII: Photographs

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by James Ivory.

Related Materials

Other collections relating to Ruth Prawer Jhabvala at Special Collections and University Archives include: the James Ivory papers, Coll 283 and Ismail Merchant papers, Coll 320.

Ruth Prawer Jhabval papers relating to her prose writing and plays (drafts, notebooks, corresondence, and other working material), are held at the British Library in London.

Physical Description

34 manuscript boxes, 1 flat box, 1 LP box

Processing Information

Collection processed by Tom Beech, Stephanie Kays, Georges Lifermann, Rachel Lilley, Marilyn Miller, and Richard Yates.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the Ruth Prawer Jhabvala papers Ruth Prawer Jhabvala papers
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Finding aid is written in English

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA