Vikram Seth Analysis

Other literary forms

(World Poets and Poetry)

Vikram Seth (sayt) is best known for his novels. A Suitable Boy (1993), a family epic set in postcolonial India, is a monumental 1,349-page work that received mixed reviews but that became one of Seth’s best-known works. An Equal Music (1999), set in contemporary London, is a love story about the members of a string quartet. Seth wrote a prizewinning travel book, From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet, published in 1983, and translated Chinese poetry in Three Chinese Poets: Translations of Poems by Wang Wei, Li Bai, and Du Fu (1992). Arion and the Dolphin (1995), written as the libretto for an opera, was also published as a children’s book.


(World Poets and Poetry)

Vikram Seth won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award in 1983 for From Heaven Lake; the Quality Paperback Book Club New Voice Award and a Gold Medal from the Commonwealth Club of California, both in 1986, for The Golden Gate; the W. H. Smith Award in 1994 for A Suitable Boy; and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize in 1994. He received an Ingram Merrill Fellowship in 1985-1986, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1986-1987, and the Order of the British Empire in 2001. In 2005, he received India’s Pravasi Bharatiya Samman award for exceptional work in literature and in 2007 received India’s Padma Shri award for his contributions to education and literature.

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Look up information about the Tintin cult and discuss Vikram Seth’s use of it in stanzas 9-24 through 9-26 of The Golden Gate.

What role does Seth’s love of music, both Western and Eastern, play in his novels?

What political themes appear in the background of A Suitable Boy?

What is the importance of setting in Seth’s novels The Golden Gate, A Suitable Boy, and An Equal Music?

How effective is Seth in depicting family relationships?

Love affairs dominate The Golden Gate, A Suitable Boy, and An Equal Music. What conflicts plague all of these love affairs?


(World Poets and Poetry)

Agarwalla, Shyam S. Vikram Seth’s “A Suitable Boy”: Search for an Indian Identity. New Delhi: Prestige Books, 1995. A scholarly, book-length source on Seth. Employing the techniques of literary criticism, the book includes general cultural information and discussion of Seth’s role as an Indian writer.

Corey, Stephen. Review of All You Who Sleep Tonight. Ohio Review, no. 47 (1991): 132-139. Critical review of the volume. Corey’s conclusion is that the poetry is often trivial, singsongy, and oversimplified.

Gopal, Priyamvada. The Indian English Novel: Nation, History, and Narration. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. An introduction to the Indian novel in English, now considered “a fixture on the international literary scene.” Major writers covered include Seth, Rabindranath Tagore, Salman Rushdie, and Arundhati Roy.

Mohanty, Seemita. A Critical Analysis of Vikram Seth’s Poetry and Fiction. New Delhi: Atlantic, 2007. A thorough study of Seth’s writing, including both his poetry and his fiction, and the ways he approaches the writing process. Intended for scholars and general readers alike.

Perloff, Marjorie. “Homeward Ho! Silicon Valley Pushkin.” Review of The Golden Gate. American Poetry Review 15, no. 6 (November/December, 1986): 37-46. Perloff asserts that Seth’s concern with rhyme weakens the novel’s characterization, plot, and satirical force. A scholarly article, with detailed analysis and extensive references to poetic form and poets in history.

Perry, John Oliver. “World Literature in Review: India.” Review of All You Who Sleep Tonight. World Literature Today 65, no. 3 (Summer, 1991): 549-550. Perry discusses the content and form of several specific poems and concludes, “It is a tribute to the poems . . . that often they can sound a bit like Frost or Hardy.”

Seth, Vikram. Introduction and foreword to The Poems, 1981-1994. New York: Viking Penguin, 1995. A primary source, the poet’s foreword reprinted in a volume of selected poems. Seth discusses his poetry and influences and reveals themes and insight into his priorities and thought processes.

Woodward, Richard B. “Vikram Seth’s Big Book.” The New York Times Magazine 142 (May 2, 1993): 32-36. A profile of Seth that includes biographical and background information on the author, his writing, and his career.