Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Vikram Seth, a suitable passion
From The Telegraph:
It is always a pleasure when a novelist turns out in person exactly as you had expected from reading their books – doubly so when that author is Vikram Seth, who is so benevolent and linguistically agile on the page. He spoke at Hay Dhaka with his editor David Davidar, the founder of Penguin India, with whom he spent many hours editing A Suitable Boy. So closely did they work that Seth moved into Davidar’s house to make sure every detail of his 1,500-page novel was to his taste. Seth and Davidar were good enough friends to tease each other and generous enough to allow us to overhear them. Seth spoke how when he was studying economics at Stanford University in California he found Pushkin’s novel in verse Eugene Onegin. He was immediately gripped and – putting his academic thesis on the economics of seven Chinese villages – he started work on his own novel in verse written in Pushkin stanzas: The Golden Gate. Even now all his prose works are prefaced by a poem in this verse form.
The line that sparked A Suitable Boy, said Seth, was the one that became the opening: ‘You too will marry a boy I choose’. From that sentence the whole world of 1950s India unfurled. An audience member tried to tease out of him details of the sort-of sequel he is writing called A Suitable Girl. “The characters are shy,” said Seth. “If I call them out now they will fly away.” He did, though, reveal something of his work routine (always a source of fascination to readers). He worked from 2am to 8am, the silent hours allowing him full immersion in the world he created. To do this he forced himself to go to bed at 4pm.
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