A page about a writer should
contain mostly his writings. So I won't wax eloquent here. Just a
short biography, and maybe a photograph. Seth was born in Calcutta,
in 1952. He studied at Doon School, Dehradun and in Oxford. After
graduating in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, he studied for an
Economics Ph. D. at Stanford and Nanjing. He never completed the Ph.
D., but attended courses on writing, learnt Chinese and travelled
across Xinjiang and Tibet. He is single, and now lives in Delhi (and
Dehradun) with his father and brother. His sister, married to an Austrian
diplomat, lives in Washington DC. (A good number of these little details
are reflected in some of Seth's characters.)
From Heaven Lake
-- A travelogue, about his wanderings through Xinjiang and Tibet.
The Golden Gate -- A novel in verse (tetrameter sonnets) about
life in California, and life in general. A singular demonstration
of the writer's mastery over form and fact alike. Pushkin's Eugene
Onegin was Seth's inspiration.
Mappings -- A wonderful collection of early poems and translations.
The Humble Administrator's Garden -- Poems about or set in
China, India and California.
Three Chinese Poets -- Translations of the works of three Tang
era Chinese poets.
Who Sleep Tonight
-- A great collection of original poems and translations.
Arion and the Dolphin -- A libretto, based on a Greek legend.
Beastly Tales from Here and There -- A collection of famous
tales from around the world, in verse.
A Suitable Boy -- A book about 'the Being of India' in the
words of one of his characters. If he had written just this one book,
his place as the best Indian writer in English ever would have been
secure. Probably the longest single-volume work of fiction in all
of English literature
(Tolstoy's War and Peace was the inspiration.)
An Equal Music -- A moving novel about love, music, and life.
Now comes the most intersting
part. My prose ends here, and Seth's -- prose and verse -- takes over.
Quotes from his works...
Sit, drink your coffee
here; your work can wait awhile.
You're twenty-six, and still have some life ahead.
No need for wit; just talk vacuities, and I'll
Reciprocate in kind, or laugh at you instead.
The world is too opaque,
distressing and profound.
This twenty minutes' rendezvous will make my day:
To sit here in the sun, with grackles all around,
Staring with beady eyes, and you two feet away.
Half Out of Sleep
Half out of sleep I watch
your sleeping face
Behind your eyelids' restlessness I see
A dream that waking may not quite displace:
If there were equity you'd dream of me.
(translated from the Urdu of Faiz Ahmed Faiz)
your faded memory came to me
As in the wilderness spring comes quietly
As, slowly, in the desert, moves the breeze,
As, to a sick man, without cause, comes peace.
in Jiangsu Province
flows on like brown tape.
The research forms take final shape,
Each figure like a laden boat
With white or madder sails afloat.
float on, O facts and facts,
Distilled compendia of past acts,
Reveal the Grand Design to me,
Flotilla of my PhD.
He goes home,
Among old Beatles and Pink Floyd -
But 'Girl' elicits mere frustration,
While 'Money' leaves him more annoyed.
Alas, he hungers less for money
Than for a fleeting Taste of Honey.
Murmuring, 'Money - it's a gas! ...
The lunatic is on the grass,'
He pours himself a beer. Desires
And reminiscenes intrude
Upon his unpropitious mood
Until he feels that he requires
A one-way Ticket to Ride - and soon -
Across the Dark Side of the Moon.