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The City of Joy mourns Dominique Lapierre

Among his other well-known works are 'Is Paris Burning?' and 'Freedom at Midnight', both of which he had co-written with Larry Collins.

Dominique Lapierre, Dominique Lapierre City of Joy, Dominique Lapierre booksDominique Lapierre, a French writer and author, celebrated for his novels about Paris's struggle during World War Two and depicting life in a Calcutta slum, has died at 91. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri, File)
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Darkness descended early on Sunday at Asha Bhavan, a home for destitute children at Uluberia on the outskirts of the city, as news broke that celebrated French author Dominique Lapierre, who had been helping the centre by donating much of his royalties, had died.

Lapierre, whose 1985 novel City of Joy became an international best seller, was for the children who live at this centre, a kindly father figure, akin in many ways to Father Stephan Kovalski, the Polish priest, the author had created as one of the main characters in his book, based on the slums of Calcutta .

Mourning the loss, John Mary Barui, the director of the centre, said a prayer meeting was arranged as soon as people came to know about his death.

Asha Bhavan Centre, with financial and moral support from Lapierre, set up multiple schools in Bengal over the years, Barui said.

Lapierre would often say that India was his second home, he recalled.

The French author, who was honoured with Padma Bhushan in 2008, breathed his last on December 4.

“At 91, he died of old age,” his wife Dominique Conchon-Lapierre told French newspaper Var-Matin.

Just two years back, on another Sunday in December 2020, Father Francois Laborde, Lapierre’s friend and the man believed to have inspired the character Kovalski died at age 93.


City of Joy, his novel on the underprivileged of Kolkata, was adapted into a film, starring Patrick Swayze, in 1992.

In an interview with PTI in 2013, Lapierre said that the novel was like his “song of love for India, the place where I have been coming very regularly since the last 50 years. It has been an emotional journey for me where I have got a lot of love and support from the people”.

Lapierre, following the success of his novel, had supported many humanitarian projects in Kolkata, including refuge centres for children affected with polio, schools, NGOs and rehabilitation workshops, Asha Bhavan Centre being one of them.


“As and when he visited India, Lapierre would always find time to spend with children of the schools and destitute homes that he helped set up with the centre in Kolkata and other districts, including South 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, Purba Medinipur, Murshidabad and Birbhum,” said Barui.

All such schools held a condolence meet for the author on Monday, he added.

Born on July 30, 1931, at Chatelaillon in France, Lapierre had begun his career as a journalist.

Among his other well-known works are ‘Is Paris Burning?’ and ‘Freedom at Midnight’, both of which he had co-written with Larry Collins.

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First published on: 06-12-2022 at 09:37 IST
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