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The Vikram Seth File

January 2007
The Vikram Seth File


3 Number of novels he has published.

5 Volumes of poetry he has published.

12 His published works in total, including a children's book and a libretto.

54 His age (he was born June 20, 1952 in Calcutta).

63 His height in inches (He's 5-foot-3).

1,349 Pages in his 1993 novel A Suitable Boy.

1.4 million His reported advance in pounds for the memoir Two Lives.


"If I'm inspired by something, I don't just dabble in it, I get obsessed by it." (Financial Times)

"I never decided to become a writer, as people sometimes put it. I just had to write certain books, or certain poems, and then after a number of these had been written, I realized that I was a writer." (AsiaSource.org)

"When I realized that I had feelings for men as well as women, at first I was worried and frightened, and there was a certain amount of Who am I? Am I a criminal? and so on. It took me a long time to come to terms with myself." (Outlook India)

"I'm a recluse but rather a gregarious recluse because I do enjoy parties, I do enjoy people's company. But I find fame quite irksome." (BBC)


After attending the Doon School in Dehradun, he earned a bachelor's degree at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in 1975, and a master's degree at Stanford University in 1979. He undertook poetics studies at Stanford and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Creative Writing. He also studied economics at Stanford, while pursuing a PhD. "I spent many years of my life as an economist and demographer," he told Random House's Bold Type. "I was finally distracted by writing my novels and poetry. I'm enormously happy that was the case. I feel that with writing I have found my metier."

A bisexual, Seth has spoken of his 10-year relationship with his former partner, the French-born violinist Philippe Honor�. He recently decried an Indian law that deems homosexuality a criminal act. "I don't particularly like talking about these matters myself," he told Outlook India. "I am a private person and I don't feel my friends' lives and my own should be part of the public's right to know. But in a case like this where so much is at stake, where the happiness, at a conservative estimate, of 50 million people and their right not to be fearful or lonely and to be with the people whom they love is at issue, and the happiness of their families as well, then it really is incumbent on us to speak out."

His first novel, The Golden Gate, published in 1986, was written entirely in verse and sold surprisingly well. Gore Vidal called it the "Great California Novel."


His mother, Leila Seth, was the first woman judge on the Delhi High Court and the first woman to become Chief Justice of a state High Court. His father, Prem Seth, was an executive of Bata India Limited and was known as "Mr. Shoe."

He has studied several languages, including Welsh, German, Mandarin, Urdu, and Hindi. He plays the Indian flute and the cello and sings German lieder, especially Schubert.



Selections from The Golden Gate


An excerpt from his last book Two Lives


A 23-minute video interview of Seth at the Hay Literary Festival in Wales.

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