Sunday June 24, 2018

William Shakespeare: contemporary even after 400 years

In the era of short films, the plays of William Shakespeare have their presence globally even after 400 years of being published.

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William Shakespeare:Wikimedia Commons
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By Shivangi Tripathi

It’s been around 400 hundred years since William Shakespeare wrote his last play ‘The Two Noble Kinsmen’, published in the year 1613, yet even today Romeo and Juliet are epitome of pure romance. In the age of rom-coms, what makes Romeo and Juliet alive?

William Shakespeare was born in 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, 160 kms  from London.

But great minds are not confined by borders. His characters were embraced by people all over the world as their own. His influence was such that his works have been translated in hundreds of languages. Although he was British, his influence among Americans is eminent. ‘The Folger Shakespeare Library’ in Washington D.C. is the world’s largest collection of printed works of William Shakespeare. The exhibit at Folger has a copy of ‘First Folio’ which is one of the earliest references of Shakespeare’s work into the new world. It contains some of his most commended works like’ The twelfth night’, ‘The Hamlet’ and ‘The Tempest’.

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His carrier as a playwright is said to have started as early as 13 years of age on the London stage. The vast acceptance of his characters as real with real human emotions is said to be the reason that it even resonates with the readers today. The powerful poetic writing and phrases such ‘Et tu brute’ or ‘The most unkindest cut’ is bound to leave a permanent mark for just the depth and understanding of human emotions.

Later, after being financially stable, Shakespeare became a land owner and a major shareholder of Globe Theatre whose exact replica now stands in London.

Along with the universal appeal of his characters Academia has helped a lot in taking Shakespeare to the next generation readers by making it a compulsory reading in high schools. Whatever be the reason, definition of genres like tragedy, comedy or romance is always incomplete without the reference of his works.

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“A Suitable Girl”: Most Awaited Novel By Vikram Seth, Finally Published

Seth suffered from writer's block after his break-up

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"A Suitable Girl": Most Awaited Novel By Vikram Seth, Finally Published, flickr

Hardly has any novel been awaited with as much curiosity and anticipation in recent times as Vikram Seth’s sequel to the monumental “A Suitable Boy” (1993). Five years on, since he was first expected to deliver the manuscript, the novel is still to see the light of the day. But what seems like a saga of missed deadlines can very well — far from our eyes — be a masterpiece in the making.

“The more I talk of her, the more shy she becomes,” Seth had told this correspondent in 2015 about “A Suitable Girl”, the novel-in-waiting.

Seth, as his literary agent David Godwin puts it, has been known to take his time with his books. The prolonged delay, however, was not acceptable to Hamish Hamilton (an imprint of Penguin Random House) and he was asked to return an advance payment of $1.7 million when the deal was called off. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, an imprint of the British publisher Orion, then acquired the novel — and it was scheduled to release in 2016.

But a flying bird — a friend and confidant of the writer — says that he is now giving the “final touch” to the novel and that one can expect “the big announcement” soon.

Seth released a collection of poems titled “Summer Requiem” in the meanwhile. In the collection, he traces the immutable shiftings of the seasons, the relentless rhythms of a great world that both “gifts and harms”. Composed as they were while he was (which he still is) writing the sequel, several poems in the offering open doors to his mind, or perhaps they may be preludes to the larger narrative that he is weaving.

“I have so carefully mapped/the corners of my mind/that I am forever waking/in a lost country,” he writes in the opening poem. Interestingly, Seth’s companion to “A Suitable Boy” will be a jump sequel — the characters have travelled from the 1950s and it will be very much a novel set in somewhat the present times.

novels By Vikram Seth
novels By Vikram Seth, flickr

In its title poem, he mourns that the “liberated generation lives a restrained youth,” and then adds: “I must forsake attachment”. On another occasion in the book, readers find him lamenting over “the peaceful love” that the narrator has “never found”. In another short poem “Late Light” he writes: “Outside the great world’s gifts and harms/ There must be somewhere I can go/To rest within a lover’s arm/At ease with the impending snow”.

Reportedly, Seth suffered from writer’s block after his break-up with French violinist Phillippe Honor but that was a long time ago and was reflected in “An Equal Music”. He has moved on or has he not?

Nonetheless, it has been about five years since “A Suitable Girl” was first expected to hit the stands but the wait is surely worth it. As writer-politician Shashi Tharoor says about his good friend’s technique — that “Vikram Seth draws an entire roadmap of his novel, planning every minute element in great detail” — the sequel, thanks to all the anticipation and the pressure on the writer, may actually be a masterpiece in the making, as sublime as its counterpart and yet set in the time of its readers.

Vikram Seth is a recipient of the Padma Shri, Sahitya Akademi Award, and among several other prestigious honours, the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman. He has been widely translated and is among leading novelists on the global stage. He has published three novels — “The Golden Gate” (1986), “A Suitable Boy” (1993) and “An Equal Music” (1999) — along with several collections of poetry such as “Mappings” and “All You Who Sleep Tonight”.

Also read: Here is all the reason for Bookworms to look ahead for the upcoming year: A List of the Best Stories and Novels in 2017!

Seth — an openly gay man — is also one of the prominent faces of the campaign against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises homosexuality. (IANS)