Paul Mark Scott’s literary legacy is a series of novels, most notably The Raj Quartet, that explore on various levels the waning relationship between India, “the jewel in the crown,” and its British rulers, the Raj. Interestingly, Scott rarely lived more than a few miles from his London birthplace. His mother was from a working-class background, and his father was a commercial artist. Although Scott attended a private school, because of family financial difficulties he was forced into the workplace at the age of fourteen. In 1941 he married Penny Avery; they had two daughters. From the late 1940’s he worked in the publishing profession in London until he retired to write full time in 1960, a vocation he pursued until his death shortly before his fifty-eighth birthday.
Scott’s persona and his literary accomplishments were hardly those of a successful London businessman-turned-writer. In many aspects of his life he was a marginal man, caught between conflicting expectations and differing societal norms. By birth and inheritance he was neither working class nor middle class. Before his marriage and perhaps at least once afterward he had a homosexual relationship. When he wrote, he drank—reportedly a bottle of gin each day. His novels received some critical praise, particularly the four volumes of The Raj Quartet, but little popular attention until the eve of his death, when he was awarded Britain’s premier literary accolade, the Booker Prize.
In many ways Scott was the quintessential Londoner, but the most significant period in his life was the three short years he spent in India as a supply officer during and after World War II. His experiences and his observations of the British in India on the eve of independence became manifest in all of his fiction. He was not the only British writer who made British India his subject: Rudyard...
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