Vikram Seth was born in Calcutta, India, in 1952, the oldest of three children. His father, Prem Seth, was a shoe company executive and his mother, Laila Seth, served as a judge. Seth left India to study at Oxford University in England, earning degrees in philosophy, economics, and politics. He enrolled at Stanford University in California, intending to complete a Ph.D. in economics. While at Stanford, Seth was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in creative writing. He wrote the poems collected in Mappings during this time. From 1980 to 1982, Seth was in China for two years of travel and economic research. While there, he studied classical Chinese poetry and language at Nanjing University. He wrote an account of a hitchhiking journey to India during this time, published as From Heaven Lake.
Seth’s works present a variety of subjects based on his experiences and travels. The poetry collections The Humble Administrator’s Garden and All You Who Sleep Tonight (1990) merge Chinese, Indian, and Californian influences; From Heaven Lake details the hitchhiking trip through Nepal and Tibet that Seth took while a student in China; and The Golden Gate is about young professionals in San Francisco, searching for love and identity.
Translation has played an important part in Seth’s life, reflecting the multicultural sources of his material. His earliest book of poetry includes works translated from Chinese...
(The entire section is 407 words.)