Vikram Seth

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Vikram Seth
Vikram Seth, in Oxfordshire.jpg
Born (1952-06-20) 20 June 1952 (age 66)
Kolkata, India
Occupation Novelist, poet
Nationality Indian
Alma mater St. Xavier's High School, Patna
The Doon School
Corpus Christi College, Oxford
Stanford University
Period 1980–present
Genre novels, poetry, libretto, travel writing, children's literature, biography/memoir
Notable works A Suitable Boy
The Golden Gate
An Equal Music
A Suitable Girl

Vikram Seth CBE (/ˈsɛθ/; born 20 June 1952) is an Indian novelist and poet. He has written several novels and poetry books. He has received several awards including Padma Shri, Sahitya Akademi 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, West Bengal, India[2] He studied at St. Michael's High School, Patna and at the The Doon School in Dehradun.[2] He also studied at St. Xavier's High School, Patna.[3] Later he moved to London and studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He then pursued a Ph.D. in Economics at Stanford University.[2][4][5] After graduating from Doon, Seth went to Tonbridge School, England to complete his A-levels,[6][7][8]

Having lived in London for many years, Seth now 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,[9] and in Jaipur, India.

In 2006, he became a leader of the campaign against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a law against homosexuality.[10] His mother has written about Seth's sexuality and her coming to terms with it in her memoir.[11]


Vikram Seth has published six books of poetry and three novels. In 1986, Vikram Seth wrote The Golden Gate, his first major work. The publication of A Suitable Boy, a 1,349-page novel, propelled Seth into the public limelight and won the WH Smith Literary Award in 1993. An Equal Music, published in 1999, deals with the troubled love life of a violinist. He was awarded the commander of the order 3 of the British Empire CBE on February 2001. Vikram Seth's work Two Lives published in 2005 is a memoir of the marriage of his great uncle and aunt. His upcoming novel A Suitable Girl is set to release in 2016.

In addition to The Golden Gate, Seth has written other works of poetry including Mappings (1980), From Heaven Lake (1983), 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 also authored a travel book, From Heaven Lake: Travels through Sin kiang 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 is currently working on a sequel to his much acclaimed novel, A Suitable Boy, expected to release in 2016 as A Suitable Girl. When quizzed by The Statesman journalist, Saket Suman to describe the upcoming book, Seth said, "The more I talk of her, the more shy she becomes."[12]


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.[13]

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[14]) with £500,000 for An Equal Music and £1.4 million for Two Lives.[15] He prepared an acrostic poem[16] for his address at Gordon's 2005 memorial service.[17]





Childrens' book

  • Beastly Tales from Here and There (1991)

His Expressions

  • From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet (1983)
  • Two Lives
  • The Rivered Earth[21]


  • 1983 – Thomas Cook Travel Book Award for From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet
  • 1985 – Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Asia) for The Humble Administrator's Garden
  • 1988 – Sahitya Akademi Award for The Golden Gate
  • 1993 – Irish Times International Fiction Prize (shortlist) for A Suitable Boy
  • 1994 – Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best Book) for A Suitable Boy
  • 1994 – WH Smith Literary Award for A Suitable Boy
  • 1999 – Crossword Book Award for An Equal Music
  • 2001 – Order of the British Empire, Officer
  • 2001 – EMMA (BT Ethnic and Multicultural Media Award) for Best Book/Novel for An Equal Music
  • 2005 – Pravasi Bharatiya Samman
  • 2007 – Padma Shri in Literature & Education[22]
  • 2013 - The 25 Greatest Global Living Legends In India

See also


  1. "Vikram Seth". Desert Island Discs. 22 January 2012. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 18 January 2014. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Vikram Seth". Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  3. "Alumni - St.Xavier's High School". Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  4. "The Golden Gate returns to Stanford May 30". Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  5. Vikram Seth's Founder's Day Address, The Doon School, Penguin Books of Modern Speeches (2009) p.34 "...edited the Weekly and did other things"
  6. Gupta, R. (2005). Vikram Seth's Art: An Appraisal. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 2. ISBN 9788126905508. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  7. "Vikram s Christi College, Oxford". 
  8. Atkins, A. (2002). Vikram Seth's Suitable Boy: A Reader's Guide. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 8. ISBN 9780826457073. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  9. Lewis, Leo; Island, Jindo (29 July 2006), "Listening to God's melodies", The Times, London, retrieved 5 September 2007 
  10. "It Took Me Long To Come To Terms With Myself. Those Were Painful Years.", Outlook India, 2 October 2006, retrieved 5 September 2007 
  11. "Delhi High Court Chief Justice Leila Seth reveals a mother's trial with a leap of faith". Daily Mail. London. 
  12. Statesman, The. "'The more I talk of her, the more shy she becomes'". Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  13. Gavron, Jeremy (27 March 1999), "A suitable joy" Check |url= value (help), The Guardian, London, retrieved 5 September 2007 .
  14. Vikram Seth writes Suitable Boy sequel in The Guardian 3 July 2009
  15. Bhatia, Shyam (1 September 2003), "Seth to get at least $3 million advance",, retrieved 5 September 2007 .
  16. Archived 15 August 2004 at the Wayback Machine
  17. "Vikram Seth - Vikram Seth Biography - Poem Hunter". Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  18. "Vikram Seth", DoonOnline: Features & Spotlights, retrieved 5 September 2007 .
  19. Albertazzi, Silvia (20 January 2005), "An equal music, an alien world: postcolonial literature and the representation of European culture", European Review, Cambridge University Press, 13, pp. 103–113, doi:10.1017/S1062798705000104 .
  20. "Vikram Seth Poems - Poems of Vikram Seth - Poem Hunter". Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  21. "Times of India by Shobha John, TNN: 27 Nov 2011, 05.13 am IST : 'I got drunk to write, says Vikram Seth'", The Times Of India, India, 27 November 2011 .
  22. "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015. 
  • Chaudhuri, Amit (ed.). "Vikram Seth (born 1952)." The Vintage Book of Modern Indian Literature. New York: Vintage, 2004:508–537.

External links