Vikram Seth in 2009
20 June 1952|
Kolkata, West Bengal, India
St. Michael's High School, Patna|
Welham Boys' School
The Doon School
Corpus Christi College, Oxford
|Genre||Novels, poetry, libretto, travel writing, children's literature, biography/memoir|
A Suitable Boy|
The Golden Gate
An Equal Music
A Suitable Girl
Vikram Seth CBE (born 20 June 1952) is an Indian novelist and poet. He has written several novels and poetry books. He has received several awards such as Padma Shri, Sahitya Academy 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 20 June 1952 in Kolkata, India. His father, Prem Nath Seth, was an executive of Bata Shoes and his mother, Leila Seth, a barrister by training, became the first female Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court.
He studied at St. Michael's High School, Patna and at The Doon School in Dehradun, where he edited The Doon School Weekly. After graduating from Doon, Seth went to Tonbridge School, England, to complete his A-levels. He also studied at St. Xavier's High School, Patna. Later he moved to the United Kingdom and read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He then pursued a Ph.D. in Economics at Stanford University though never completed it.
Having lived in London for many years, Seth maintains residences near Salisbury, England, where he is a participant in local literary and cultural events, having bought and renovated the house of the Anglican poet George Herbert in 1996, and in Jaipur, India.
In 2006, he became a leader of the campaign against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a law against sodomy. His mother has written about Seth's homosexuality and her coming to terms with it in her memoir.
Seth has published six books of poetry and three novels. In 1980, he wrote Mappings, his first book of poetry. The publication of A Suitable Boy, a 1,349-page novel, propelled Seth into the public limelight. His second novel An Equal Music deals with the troubled love life of a violinist. Seth's work Two Lives published in 2005 is a memoir of the marriage of his great uncle and aunt.
In addition to The Golden Gate, Seth has written other works of poetry including Mappings (1980), The Humble Administrator's Garden (1985), All You Who Sleep Tonight (1990) and Three Chinese Poets (1992). His children's book, Beastly Tales from Here and There (1992) consists of ten stories about animals. He has authored a travel book, From Heaven Lake: Travels through Sinkiang and Tibet (1983), an account of a journey through Tibet, China and Nepal. Vikram Seth was also commissioned by the English National Opera to write a libretto based on the Greek legend of Arion and the Dolphin. The opera was performed for the first time in June 1994.
Seth's former literary agent Giles Gordon recalled being interviewed by Seth for the position:
Vikram sat at one end of a long table and he began to grill us. It was absolutely incredible. He wanted to know our literary tastes, our views on poetry, our views on plays, which novelists we liked.
Seth later explained to Gordon that he had passed the interview not because of commercial considerations, but because unlike the others he was the only agent who seemed as interested in his poetry as in his other writing. Seth followed what he has described as "the ludicrous advance for that book" (£250,000 for A Suitable Boy) with £500,000 for An Equal Music and £1.4 million for Two Lives. He prepared an acrostic poem for his address at Gordon's 2005 memorial service.
Seth was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2001.