Dominique Lapierre, French author of ‘The City of Joy’, dies at 91

Dominique Lapierre, the bestselling French author best known in India for titling Kolkata as ‘The City of Joy’, has died at the age of 91, his wife has said.

Lapierre, who was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian award, in 2008 founded a humanitarian association with his wife called the City of Joy Foundation to rescue leprosy-afflicted children from the slums of Kolkata. Dating back to 1981, it was supported by royalties from his many literary successes.

The author’s wife, Dominique Conchon-Lapierre, was quoted as saying by the French newspaper ‘Var-Matin’ on Sunday, “He died at the age of 91.”

Since the 1980s, the couple’s foundation is believed to have saved 9,000 children suffering from leprosy and other diseases caused by malnutrition and poverty in India. The charity website notes that it has helped fight tuberculosis in 1,200 villages, dug 541 tube wells for drinking water, provided medical aid to more than 5 million patients over the years.

In 1954, while serving in the military, Lapierre met an American soldier named Larry Collins.

This meeting began an enduring friendship and a valuable partnership, and the two wrote ‘Is Paris Burning?’ Collaborated on some of the most memorable books including. – Made into a major motion picture – and others such as ‘O Jerusalem’, ‘Freedom at Midnight’, ‘Is New York Burning?’ and ‘The Fifth Horseman’, books read by millions of readers in over 30 languages.

Born in Châtillon on July 30, 1931, the author was known for his passion for travel. While doing research in Calcutta, Kolkata at the time, he became a close associate of Mother Teresa, who commissioned him to write a film on her life and the work of her sisters, the Missionaries of Charity.

The film Mother Teresa: In the Name of God’s Poor, with Geraldine Chaplin playing the role of Mother Teresa, was broadcast on the Family Channel in the US and several European channels. Lapierre’s screenplay was also nominated by the prestigious Humanitas Award for Communicating the Best Values.

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According to a speaker booking agency, Lapierre got his first taste of fame when at age 17 he left Paris with US$30 and worked on a ship. Landing in America, he traveled 30,000 miles around North America.

This adventure led to Lapierre’s first bestselling book, ‘A Dollar for a Thousand Miles’, and since then, he has continually discovered new messages and stories in different parts of the world.

In 1991, Lapierre published Beyond Love, the epic story of the discovery of the AIDS virus. Among his later works, ‘A Thousand Sons’ describes the heroes and events that shaped the life of the author-philanthropist and ‘India Mon Amour’ his memoir reflects his love for India.

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