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Writer and historian Patrick French dies

The British historian and writer, best known for his biography of V.S. Naipaul, died in London earlier today

Patrick French
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British writer and historian Patrick French has died after a four-year battle with cancer. He was 56.  

French, best known for his authorised biography of V.S. Naipaul, The World Is What It Is (2008) and Younghusband: the Last Great Imperial Adventurer (1994), died in London at 8am GMT, his wife Meru Gokhale told PTI.

"At 8.10 am this morning my beloved husband Patrick French passed away in London after a brave battle with cancer. He was an exceptional father, friend, husband, teacher and mentor to many. His kindness and love will stay with us forever. He went in peace, without suffering," Gokhale, former publisher at the Penguin Press Group, said.

Writers and historians tweeted their tributes throughout the day. Author William Dalrymple said on Twitter that he was heartbroken to hear about the death of Patrick French “who I have loved and admired since we were both thirteen, and who was the Best Man at my wedding." Dalrymple, who often shared the stage with French at literature festivals in India and abroad, added, “He was funny & clever & charming, always full of enthusiasm & energy. He was also the greatest biographer of our generation.”

French was known for his deeply researched and written biographies, clear understanding of South Asia and his personal interest in stories from the region. His other books include and India: A Portrait (2011), Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land (2003), Liberty or Death: India’s Journey to Independence and Division (1997). He was working on an authorised biography of novelist Doris Lessing at the time of his death. 

Patrick French was born in England in 1966 and studied literature at Edinburgh University. Apart from winning the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Hawthornden Prize for The World Is What It Is, French won the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, the Royal Society of Literature Heinemann Prize, and the Somerset Maugham Award.

Historian and biographer Ramachandra Guha tweeted: “Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Patrick French. He was a wonderful writer, whose books on Francis Younghusband and VS Naipaul are classics of modern biographical writing. He was also a very fine human being, unfailingly generous to friends and strangers alike.”

Congress' Shashi Tharoor and Jairam Ramesh also tweeted condolences.

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