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Happy birthday Vikram Seth, suitable boy turns 59

Books | Ruchira Singh | June 20, 2011, 6:36 pm
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[caption id="attachment_796476"] A Suitable Boy is set in post-independence, post-partition India. The novel follows the story of four families over a period of 18 months as a mother searches for a suitable boy to marry her daughter. The novel is divided into 19 parts, with each part focussing on a different story (and eventually coming back round again). For example part 1 is about Lata's story; part 2 is about a courtesan (the beginning of a major subplot featuring Maan Kapoor); part 3 is about Lata again; part 4 is about Haresh; part 5 is about the Brahmpur political scene etc. Each part is described by a rhyming couplet on the contents page[/caption]

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[caption id="attachment_796477"] 'The Golden Gate', an opera in two acts with music by Conrad Cummings and libretto from the novel-in-verse by Vikram Seth adapted by the composer" is currently (2010) in development by LivelyWorks and American Opera Projects and receives a staged workshop production at the Rose Studio at Lincoln Center in New York City in January 2010. The novel brought its author the 1988 Sahitya Akademi Award for English, by the Sahitya Akademi, India's National Academy of Letters.[/caption]

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 Vikram Seth has written acclaimed books in several genres: verse novel, The Golden Gate; travel book, From Heaven Lake; animal fables, Beastly Tales; epic novel, A Suitable Boy. His most recent novel, An Equal Music, was published in 1999. In a move which will cheer hundreds of thousands of his fans. Here is a look at some of his most illustrious works.

Vikram Seth has written acclaimed books in several genres: verse novel, The Golden Gate; travel book, From Heaven Lake; animal fables, Beastly Tales; epic novel, A Suitable Boy. His most recent novel, An Equal Music, was published in 1999. In a move which will cheer hundreds of thousands of his fans. Here is a look at some of his most illustrious works.

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[caption id="attachment_796479"] Three Chinese Poets is a book of poetry by the titular poets Wang Wei, Li Bai and Du Fu translated into English by Vikram Seth. The Three Poets were contemporaries and are considered to be amongst the greatest Chinese poets, though Du Fu did not receive much recognition for his poetry during his life. The three have been described as Buddhist recluse, Taoist immortal and Confucian sage respectively. Though this trichotomy has been criticised as simplistic and artificial, it can act as a guiding approximation. They lived in the Tang Dynasty and the political strife at that time affected all of their lives very much and this impact is evident in the poetry of all three. [/caption]

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[caption id="attachment_796480"] Vikram Seth’s second non-fiction work, Two Lives, is the story of a century and of a love affair across an ethnic divide. As the name suggests, it is a story of two extraordinary lives, that of his great uncle, Shanti Behari Seth, and of his German Jewish great aunt, Hennerle Gerda Caro. Two Lives is divided into five parts, beginning with the teenage author going to live with his uncle and aunt in England for higher studies at the Tonbridge School. His first year is followed by intense travel in Europe. After completing his A-levels, Seth moves on to continue his education at Oxford and Stanford, all the while remaining in contact with his guardian uncle and aunt. The story delves intricately into the ups and downs of the lives of his uncle and aunt. The text is frequently interspersed with photographs, letters, anecdotes based on Shanti’s interviews with the author, and other sources.[/caption]

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[caption id="attachment_796481"] Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet Hitch-hiking, walking, slogging through rivers and across leech-ridden hills, Vikram Seth travelled through Sinkiang and Tibet to Nepal: from Heaven Lake to the Himalayas. By breaking away from the reliable routes of organised travel, he transformed his journey into an unusual and intriguing exploration of one of the world's least known areas. [/caption]

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[caption id="attachment_796482"] The author of the international bestseller A Suitable Boy returns with a powerful and deeply romantic tale of two gifted musicians. Michael Holme is a violinist, a member of the successful Maggiore Quartet. He has long been haunted, though, by memories of the pianist he loved and left ten years earlier, Julia McNicholl. Now Julia, married and the mother of a small child, unexpectedly reenters his life and the romance flares up once more. Against the magical backdrop of Venice and Vienna, the two lovers confront the truth about themselves and their love, about the music that both unites and divides them, and about a devastating secret that Julia must finally reveal. With poetic, evocative writing and a brilliant portrait of the international music scene, An Equal Music confirms Vikram Seth as one of the world's finest and most enticing writers.[/caption]

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[caption id="attachment_796483"] It is a collection of ten fables in poetry, its full title is Beastly Tales from Here and There and, in the introduction, Seth states "the first two come from India, the next two from China, the next two from Greece, the next two from the Ukraine. The final two came directly to me from the Land of Gup". Seth's sense of humour is exemplified by his retelling of the well-known fable of The Hare and The Tortoise. In his version the loser, being a celebrity, is fêted and the winner ignored.[/caption]

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[caption id="attachment_796484"] It is a collection of poems written by Vikram Seth. The collection is grouped into five sections: - Romantic Residues, poems which reflect on feelings of love and their effects, or after-effects - In Other Voices, poems from the viewpoint of people in other times and places, such as a doctor in Hiroshima on the day of the atomic bomb - In Other Places, poems about places and people encountered in his travels - Quatrains, four-line poems on themes as diverse as insomnia and table manners - Meditations of the Heart, ranging from admiration of the Russian dissident poet Irina Ratushinskaya to the title poem of the volume.[/caption]

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 It is a collection of poetry written, it is Vikram Seth's first collection of poems published.

It is a collection of poetry written, it is Vikram Seth's first collection of poems published.

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 Original poems range from a cautionary tale in rhyming couplets (

Original poems range from a cautionary tale in rhyming couplets ("The Tale Of Melon City"), through Seth's characteristic musings - some serious and some light-hearted - on life, love and landscape, to the title poem reflecting on the different selves "mapped" by his earlier writings. Interspersed with these are translations (one each) from the Chinese of Du Fu, the Urdu of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, the German of Heinrich Heine and the Hindi of Suryakant Tripathi Nirala.

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