|Born||20 June 1952|
Kolkata, West Bengal, India
|Alma mater||Corpus Christi College, Oxford|
|Genre||Novels, poetry, libretto, travel writing, children's literature, biography/memoir|
|Notable works||A Suitable Boy|
The Golden Gate
An Equal Music
|Notable awards||Padma Shri, Sahitya Academy, Stegner Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, Commonwealth Writers' Prize|
Vikram Seth's voice from the BBC programme Desert Island Discs, 22 January 2012.
Vikram Seth(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.
Seth was born on 20 June 1952 in Calcutta. His father, Prem Nath Seth, was an executive of Bata Shoes and his mother, Leila Seth, a barrister by training, became the first female judge of the Delhi High Court and first woman to become Chief Justice of a state High Court in India.
He received his primary education at St. Xavier's High School in Patna, and then went to The Doon School in Dehradun, where he was editor-in-chief of The Doon School Weekly. At Doon, he was influenced by his teacher, the mountaineer Gurdial Singh, who taught him geography and, according to Leila Seth, "guided Vikram in many ways...encouraged him to appreciate Western classical music and instilled in him a love of adventure and daring." Singh later described Seth as an "indefatigable worker, and he maintains without difficulty his distinguished level in studies...he has put in enormous amount of energy in other spheres of school life, in dramatics, in debating, in first aid, in music, and in editing the Doon School Weekly." After graduating from Doon, Seth went to Tonbridge School, England, to complete his A-levels. Later he 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.
Seth has published eight 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. It was adapted into a BBC television drama miniseries in 2020. 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 10 stories about animals. He has written a travel book, From Heaven Lake: Travels through Sinkiang and Tibet (1983), an account of a journey through Tibet, China and Nepal. He 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.
A sequel to A Suitable Boy, A Suitable Girl, was announced in 2009.
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.
Seth divides his time between the United Kingdom, where he bought and renovated the former home of the Anglican poet George Herbert near Salisbury, and India, where he has a family home in Noida, Uttar Pradesh. In 2006, he became a leader of the campaign against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a law against homosexuality.