The Story of Vikram Seth

Vikram Seth is an Indian novelist and poet. He has written several novels and poetry books. He has received several awards including Padma Shri, Sahitya Akademi Award, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, WH Smith Literary Award and Crossword Book Award. Seth’s collections of poetry such as “Mappings” and “Beastly tales”, are notable contributions to the Indian English language poetry Canon.

Vikram Seth was born on June 20, 1952 at Kolkata. Seth drew inspiration from his mother who was the first woman to become Chief Justice of a state High Court. She was the Chief Justice of Shimla High Court.

Vikram Seth did his schooling from The Doon School in Dehradun. He took his undergraduate degree in philosophy, politics and economics from Oxford University. He was enrolled in postgraduate economics courses at Stanford University and was also attached to Nanjing University for his intended doctoral dissertation on Chinese population planning. Needless to say he was an accomplished young man for whom the sky was the limit.

His first novel, The Golden Gate: A Novel in Verse (1986), describes the experiences of a group of friends living in California. His acclaimed epic of Indian life, A Suitable Boy (1993), won the WH Smith Literary Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best Book). Set in India in the early 1950s, it is the story of a young girl, Lata, and her search for a husband. An Equal Music (1999), is the story of a violinist haunted by the memory of a former lover.

Vikram Seth is also the author of a travel book, From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet (1983), an account of a journey through Tibet, China and Nepal that won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, and a libretto, Arion and the Dolphin: A Libretto (1994), which was performed at the English National Opera in June 1994, with music by Alec Roth. His poetry includes Mappings (1980), The Humble Administrator’s Garden (1985), winner of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Asia), and All You Who Sleep Tonight: Poems (1990). His children’s book, Beastly Tales from Here and There (1992), consists of ten stories about animals told in verse.

Vikram Seth’s latest work is Two Lives (2005), a memoir of the marriage of his great uncle and aunt.

Reading Seth, one experiences the sense of an old-fashioned conception of the relationship between reader and writer; engaging the attention and interest of the “common reader” (as he defines it) becomes a programmatic element of both his poetry and his prose, and his books reveal a sophisticated yet unselfconscious return to realist narrative and formal poetic structures.


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