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French author Dominique Lapierre, who wrote ‘City of Joy’, passes away

French writer Dominique Lapierre, who wrote the iconic book City of Joy on Kolkata, has passed away. He was 91 years old.

According to the report, Lapierre’s wife Dominique Coshon-Lapierre has confirmed this to the French newspaper Var-matin. He told that the reason for his death was age-related ailments. Born in Chatelaillon, France, on July 30, 1931, Lapierre began his career as a Paris-Match reporter.

He has co-authored six books with American journalist Larry Collins. Those six also include the famous ‘Is Paris Burning’ based on the liberation of Paris during World War II. Lapierre co-wrote with Collins ‘O Jerusalem!’ in 1972, ‘Freedom at Midnight’ in 1975, ‘The Fifth Horseman’ in 1980 and ‘Is New York Burning’ in 2005. His other books such as Beyond Love (1990) and A Thousand Sons (1999) have been international bestsellers.

The book that made him a household name in India was The City of Joy, published in 1985, based on the rickshaw pullers of Kolkata. Like Is Paris Burning, a film was also made on the City of Joy. The 1992 film directed by Roland Joffe starred Patrick Swayze, Om Puri, Shabana Azmi and Pauline Collins.

In 1981, Lapierre founded City of Joy Aid, an NGO in Kolkata, which aims to run a network of clinics, schools, rehabilitation centers and hospital boats. This organization works with royalties from his novels and other books, fees for lectures and donations from readers. The book ‘Freedom at Midnight’, written with Larry Collins, was also about India, in which the country’s freedom struggle, partition and the last phase of British rule were recorded.

Apart from this, he had also co-authored ‘Five Past Midnight in Bhopal’ based on the Bhopal gas tragedy, in which the incident was told through the witnesses of the tragedy. He did research for this in the 1990s by living in the city for three years. Part of the royalty received from this book went to the clinic in Bhopal, which provided free treatment to gas victims. Lapierre also funded a primary school in one of the settlements mentioned in the book.

In 2008, Lapierre was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian award.