Dominic Francis Moraes was born July 19, 1938, in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, to Frank Moraes, an attorney and journalist, and Beryl Moraes, a doctor. The family moved often during Moraes’ childhood, and he traveled extensively with his father, the editor of The Times of India, especially to Australia and Southeast Asia. Moraes began writing poetry at age twelve and attended a Jesuit high school. At age eighteen he entered Oxford University where he met the influential poets W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender, who encouraged his work. Moraes’ first published poem appeared in Spender’s literary magazine Encounter, and his first book of poetry, A Beginning, was published in 1957. This book received the Hawthornden Prize, making Moraes, at nineteen, the youngest and first non-English writer to win the award.
Subsequent books of poetry included Poems (1960), John Nobody (1965), and Beldam Etcetera (1966). Moraes also worked in prose, writing two autobiographies, Gone Away (1960), and My Son’s Father (1968). In the early 1960s, he turned to journalism in order to make a living and wrote articles about London and British culture for The Times of India and Illustrated Weekly of India . He also worked as a war correspondent, covering conflicts in Algeria, Israel, and Vietnam. While in Israel, he reported on the trial of Adolf Eichmann and translated work by the Hebrew poet T. Carmi (pseudonym of Carmi Charny).
In addition to his journalism, Moraes worked as a scriptwriter for several television programs and films and continued to publish non-fiction work, such as a biography of Indira Gandhi, Mrs. Gandhi (1980), and a third autobiography, Never at Home (1992). In the late 1970s, he returned to live in India and began to focus again on poetry. In 1987, he published a collection of poems written from 1957 to 1987, and in 2001 published Cinnamon Shade: New and Selected Poems, which earned the Sahitya Akedemi Award, India’s highest literary prize. During this period he also collaborated with his companion, Sarayu Srivatsa, who considered Moraes her mentor.
Moraes was diagnosed with cancer in the early 2000s but refused treatment. He died of a heart attack on June 2, 2004.
From the guide to the Dom Moraes Collection, ca. 1956-1965, (The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center)