Vikram Seth (June 20, 1952 - ..)
Born: 20th June, 1952
Nationality: Indian
Profession/Occupation: Novelist
Region: Kolkata, India, "The Golden Gate", "Beastly Tales from Here and There", "From Heaven Lake", "All You Who Sleep Tonight", "A Suitable Boy", "The Humble Administrator's Garden"

Vikram Seth Facts

Biography

Vikram Seth, (born June 20, 1952, Calcutta [now Kolkata], India), Indian poet, novelist, and travel writer known for his verse novel The Golden Gate (1986) and his epic novel A Suitable Boy (1993).

The son of a judge and a businessman, Seth was raised in London and India. He attended exclusive Indian schools and then graduated from Corpus Christi College, Oxford (B.A., 1975). He received a master's degree in economics from Stanford University in the U.S. in 1978 and later studied at Nanjing University in China. In 1987 he returned to India to live with his family in New Delhi.

Although Seth's first volume of poetry, Mappings, was published in 1980, he did not attract critical attention until the publication of his humorous travelogue From Heaven Lake (1983), the story of his journey hitchhiking from Nanking to New Delhi via Tibet. The poetic craft of The Humble Administrator's Garden (1985) foreshadows the polish of The Golden Gate, a novel of the popular culture of California's Silicon Valley, written entirely in metred, rhyming 14-line stanzas and based on Charles Johnston's translation of Aleksandr Pushkin's Eugene Onegin. In the work Seth successfully harnesses contemporary situations to a demanding 19th-century form; the young professional characters discuss nuclear weapons, Roman Catholic teachings on homosexuality, and the perils of overwork. Seth continued to use controlled poetic form in his 1990 collection All You Who Sleep Tonight, and he also wrote the 10 stories of Beastly Tales from Here and There (1992) in tetrametre couplets. A collection entitled The Poems, 1981-1994 was published in 1995.

He turned to prose in A Suitable Boy, which depicts relations between four Indian families. The book's compelling narrative and great length invited critical comparisons to Leo Tolstoy, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Honore de Balzac, and Charles Dickens. His next novel, An Equal Music (1999), is a love story set in the world of professional musicians.

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Top 61 Vikram Seth quotes

I just love music - by no stretch of the imagination am I professionally competent.
Am
Competent
Imagination
Just
Love
Music
Professionally
Stretch
I spent many years of my life as an economist and demographer. I was finally distracted by writing my novels and poetry. I'm enormously happy that was the case. I feel that with writing I have found my metier.
Case
Distracted
Economist
Feel
Finally
Found
Happy
I feel
Life
Many
My life
Novels
Poetry
Spent
Revision has its own peculiar pleasures and its own peculiar frustrations. The ground rules are already established; the characters already exist. You don't have to bring the characters to life, but you do have to make them more convincing.
Bring
Characters
Convincing
Established
Exist
Frustrations
Ground
Life
Make
More
Own
Peculiar
Pleasures
Revision
After 'A Suitable Boy,' I didn't write anything, not even a short story. I thought to myself: 'I ought to start writing.' But I can never force myself to write.
After
Anything
Boy
Even
Force
I can
Myself
Never
Ought
Short
Start
Story
Suitable
Thought
If somebody writes clearly, you can pretty much tell immediately if something is shallow or deep, whereas if they write with all this duckweed on the surface, you can't tell if the stream is one inch deep or a hundred fathoms.
Clearly
Deep
Hundred
Immediately
Inch
Much
Pretty
Shallow
Somebody
Something
Stream
Surface
Tell
Whereas
I think goodness is about how person behaves to person, and also person to world, to nature.
About
Also
Behaves
Goodness
How
I think
Nature
Person
Think
World
Of course, I have to consider that I've written a lot of prose, but I do in my heart think of myself as being originally, and still primarily, a poet.
Being
Consider
Course
Heart
Lot
Myself
Originally
Poet
Primarily
Prose
Still
Think
Written
Dear though the reader might be, I'd be silly to cater to what the reader wanted.
Cater
Dear
Might
Reader
Silly
Though
Wanted
The fact is that at different stages of your life, and under the influence of different inspirations, you write different things. The point is not necessarily to find your voice, which grinds out the same sort of thing again and again, but to find a vehicle for people who are far more important than the author: the characters.
Again
Author
Characters
Different
Different stages
Different things
Fact
Far
Find
Important
Influence
Inspirations
Life
More
If I'm compelled to do something, I don't shy away from it simply because I haven't tackled it before.
Away
Because
Before
Compelled
Shy
Simply
Something
I often feel newspapers are just filling up space. Of course, I also know people who write really long books.
Also
Books
Course
Feel
Filling
Just
Know
Long
Newspapers
Often
People
Really
Space
Up
The trick to being a novelist is to act like an iceberg. Make it seem as if you're displaying only one-tenth of what you know, and the other nine-tenths isn't visible and never mind if that part is pure styrofoam!
Act
Being
Displaying
Iceberg
Know
Like
Make
Mind
Never
Nine-tenths
Novelist
Only
Other
Part
There are plenty of good Indian writers in English, and none of us feel we are carrying the burden of being a poster boy.
Being
Boy
Burden
Carrying
English
Feel
Good
Indian
None
Plenty
Poster
Poster boy
Us
Writers
I am careful about fiction. A novel is not a tract or an essay. If I want to write about land reforms, or Hindu-Muslim relations, or position of women, I can do it as it affects my characters as in 'A Suitable Boy.' I could only write about issues specifically through essays. But I'll do that only if I have something worthwhile to say.
About
Affects
Am
Boy
Careful
Characters
Could
Essay
Essays
Fiction
I am
I can
Issues
Land
I think it's possible to be multi-rooted, rather like a banyan tree, without being deracinated.
Being
I think
Like
Possible
Rather
Think
Tree
Without
In spite of all temptations of belonging to many nations, I've remained an Indian.
Belonging
Indian
Many
Nations
Remained
Spite
Temptations
You have to learn a few things, which you do along the way, but basically, poetry is a matter of the ear. Iambic pentameters or what constitutes a stanza comes naturally - your ears will know.
Along
Basically
Ear
Ears
Few
Few things
Know
Learn
Matter
Naturally
Poetry
Things
Way
Which
I don't read as much as people may expect. In fact, sometimes I feel that I should probably read more, but then I do believe that one of the big problems of our times is that there's too much reading and not enough thinking.
Believe
Big
Big problems
Enough
Expect
Fact
Feel
I feel
In fact
May
More
Much
Our
People
Too many trees are killed to print the words of people who may not have all that much to say, and authors and journalists are equally culpable in this regard.
Authors
Equally
Journalists
Many
May
Much
People
Print
Regard
Say
Too
Trees
Who
Words
I tend to follow a scattershot approach to reading a lot of very diverse subjects interest me, and I'm quite happy to read stuff on any of them.
Any
Approach
Diverse
Follow
Happy
Interest
Lot
Me
Quite
Read
Reading
Stuff
Subjects
Tend
If you were to ask me to pick my favourite author, well, there are so many of them, I'd really just have to say the first names that came to mind, and I'm sure that I'll later think 'Oh, I should have mentioned that one.'
Ask
Author
Came
Favourite
First
Just
Later
Many
Me
Mentioned
Mind
Names
Oh
Pick
I'm actually a very lazy person. Most of the time, I'm happy to sit around and stare. Or watch bad TV soaps. It's quite rare for me to get inspired by anything, but it could be something small. A view of the Serpentine. A snatch of music. Or a little shred of conversation overheard on a bus, such as, 'You also will marry someone of my choice.'
Actually
Also
Anything
Around
Bad
Bus
Choice
Conversation
Could
Get
Happy
Inspired
Lazy
Little
I don't think anyone should be banned. If you don't like a book, set it aside.
Anyone
Aside
Banned
Book
Like
Set
Should
Think
You
I am certainly not allergic to causes - particularly on subjects such as religious intolerance.
Allergic
Am
Causes
Certainly
I am
Intolerance
Particularly
Religious
Subjects
Of course, a law that is selectively used is in one aspect even worse than a law that is generally used because it puts a lot of power in individuals' hands and makes government a rule, not of laws, but of people.
Aspect
Because
Course
Even
Even worse
Generally
Government
Hands
Individuals
Law
Laws
Lot
Makes
One aspect
When I realised that I had feelings for men as well as women, at first I was worried and frightened, and there was a certain amount of 'Who am I? Am I a criminal?' and so on. It took me a long time to come to terms with myself. Those were painful years - painful then and painful to look back on.
Am
Amount
Back
Certain
Come
Criminal
Feelings
First
Frightened
Had
I am
Long
Long time
Look
I don't think people give Indian society enough credit. We may not like to talk much about things but we do, basically, want to live and let live.
About
Basically
Credit
Enough
Give
Indian
Like
Live
May
Much
People
Society
Talk
Things
I'm not sure anyone can understand a whole life, even their own.
Anyone
Even
Life
Own
Sure
Understand
Whole
I love speculating about solutions to problems in mathematics. I have no interest whatever in sudoku. But I do look at chess and bridge problems in newspapers. I find that relaxing.
About
Bridge
Chess
Find
I love
Interest
Look
Love
Mathematics
Newspapers
No interest
Problems
Relaxing
Solutions
I need my natural laziness to be counteracted by obsession in order to do anything.
Anything
Laziness
Natural
Need
Obsession
Order
I rarely listen to music while writing. If I don't like it, it bothers me, and if I like it, it absorbs me so much I can't write.
Absorb
Bothers
Like
Listen
Me
Much
Music
Rarely
While
Write
Writing
Realism hasn't fallen out of favor with most people, who are interested in people's lives rather than gymnastics of style or literary trends. It's a certain kind of academic who undervalues realism, largely because it is not amenable to endless exegesis.
Academic
Because
Certain
Endless
Fallen
Favor
Gymnastics
Interested
Kind
Largely
Literary
Lives
Most
Out
As for what I listen to after writing, it could be anything - but I've noticed that if the current book contains music from one tradition, it is music from another tradition that most relaxes me.
After
Another
Anything
Book
Contains
Could
Current
Listen
Me
Most
Music
Noticed
Tradition
Writing
In general, questions are fine; you can always seize upon the parts of them that interest you and concentrate on answering those. And one has to remember when answering questions that asking questions isn't easy either, and for someone who's quite shy to stand up in an audience to speak takes some courage.
Always
Answering
Asking
Asking questions
Audience
Concentrate
Courage
Easy
Either
Fine
General
Interest
Parts
Questions
On the whole, I don't like reading long books. I'm not a fan of 'Ulysses.' And I haven't quite finished 'War and Peace.'
Books
Fan
Finished
Like
Long
Peace
Quite
Reading
Ulysses
War
Whole
I want my books to sell, to be read. I'm not interested in being obscure.
Being
Books
Interested
Not interested
Obscure
Read
Sell
Want
My main motivation is not to get bored. I'm just hoping I get a vaguely maverick reputation.
Bored
Get
Hoping
Just
Main
Maverick
Motivation
Reputation
Vaguely
I have a reputation for being hermitlike. I'm not. I'm just obsessed with my work.
Being
Just
Obsessed
Reputation
Work
Fiction basically is a form of gossip where you want to enter other people's lives, the lives of people you don't know, and you want to know what's going to happen to them.
Basically
Enter
Fiction
Form
Going
Gossip
Happen
Know
Lives
Other
People
Them
Want
Where
The point really is that a writer tends to write a book that he or she tends to write. It's as simple as that. Of course, it's important to make a living and all that, but the main impulse as far as I'm concerned - and I'm sure as other writers are concerned - is to tell a story that I feel impelled by.
As far as
Book
Concerned
Course
Far
Feel
He
He or she
I feel
Impelled
Important
Impulse
Living
Main
So many Indian novels, quite unfairly, do not get the prominence they should because they have been written in a language other than English.
Because
Been
English
Get
Indian
Language
Many
Novels
Other
Quite
Should
Than
Unfairly
Written
Why do writers, say, give up a job in economics and decide to write poetry? Or, why do they give up a job in a bank and decide to paint, like Krishan Khanna? They want to convey something.
Bank
Convey
Decide
Economics
Give
Job
Like
Paint
Poetry
Say
Something
Up
Want
Why
Basically, my mother couldn't hold a tune and when I was a baby, a rather tactless baby, I would ask her not to sing... you can't get to sleep if someone is singing off key nearby.
Ask
Baby
Basically
Get
Her
Hold
Key
Mother
Nearby
Off
Rather
Sing
Singing
Sleep
Good music is good music, but it has to be good.
Good
Good music
Music
In a painting, you can't make out whether the artist painted the left eye before the right eye. In Chinese calligraphy, you can see the progression of the artist's stroke.
Artist
Before
Chinese
Eye
Left
Make
Out
Painted
Painting
Progression
Right
See
Stroke
Whether
I simply seem to drift. But I sort of allow the drift, because it has a kind of check - it forces me to work harder at what I'm interested in.
Allow
Because
Check
Drift
Forces
Harder
Interested
Kind
Me
Seem
Simply
Sort
Work
Poetry, I think, intensifies the reader's experience. If it's a humorous facet of the story, poetry makes it more exuberant. If it's a sad facet, poetry can make it more poignant.
Experience
Exuberant
Facet
Humorous
I think
Make
Makes
More
Poetry
Poignant
Reader
Sad
Story
Think
Everyone sort of sees his own life and times as being ephemeral. One thinks that everything good or important that happened, happened in the past. But I think that seeing scenes that you are used to, but with the heightening effects of poetry, perhaps makes you value your life and times more than you might otherwise do.
Being
Effects
Ephemeral
Everyone
Everything
Good
Happened
His
I think
Important
In the past
Life
Makes
Might
The thing about inspiration is that it takes your mind off everything else.
About
Else
Everything
Everything else
Inspiration
Mind
Off
Takes
Thing
Your
Do not write if there is no tremendous urge to do so. At the heart, there must be an inspiration or muse or one of those old-fashioned things. Else, why bore yourself, destroy other people's interest and kill trees?
Bore
Destroy
Else
Heart
Inspiration
Interest
Muse
Must
Old-fashioned
Other
People
Things
Those
Trees

Vikram Seth essays

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