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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)

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One Up Library Brings Children Closer To Books

Bringing children back to books, the One Up way

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One Up Library in Vasant Vihar. IANS
One Up Library in Vasant Vihar promoting reading habits among children. IANS

With walls painted pearl white and bright mats covering the floor, it looks like a fancy showroom in an upmarket neighbourhood. But don’t get mistaken — it’s a library. And that too for children.

The One Up library in Vasant Vihar is like an oasis in the digital desert with 1-14 years old as members. It’s a rarity to find a neighbourhood library as today’s children are mostly engaged in online passions, having little time for reading books.

Dalbir Kaur, founder of One Up, believes in the old school way of making children aware. Started in Amritsar in 2011 as the Golden City’s first modern library, One Up travelled to Delhi in 2017.

Dalbir believes the 21st-century children need spaces beyond schools that specifically focus on critical reading and thinking; promoting curiosity, collaboration & conversations, and community-building.

“The conventional libraries could not stand the effect of time, especially when everything is available online. But it’s important that children visit libraries to explore literature, develop their reading tastes,” she told IANS.

Dalbir said to draw teenagers towards books and promote less usage of technology, a revolutionary change was required in the way libraries looked and felt. She brought the concept of active reading, where children are guided by trained helpers who themselves read a lot.

“It’s important to have attractive interiors with an active librarian. The librarian or the attendants must be active and knowledgeable about the books and should be avid readers themselves,” Dalbir said.

Bringing children back to books
Motivating children to read books and cultivating reading habits amongst children in One Up library. Pixabay

Since the readers are children, Dalbir herself goes through every book that is to be added to the library to remove all the chances of inappropriate content. Her team also organises weekly activities, like ‘read-out-loud’, ‘draw what you read’, interaction with authors and quizzes after a reader finishes his/her book. All of this is conducted on the first floor of the building, which is now full of drawings and charts created by readers as part of their activity.

The initiative has gained popularity as the library now has over 200 children as members and the number is rising every day. Some members even come from Noida and Gurugram to read books — just for an hour or two.

The positive changes have also begun to flow as Dalbir has been approached by several educational institutions to curate their libraries and train their teachers. By now she has helped over 20 schools to curate their libraries and train librarians.

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Dalbir does not charge anything from a school for curating a library. She holds workshops for teachers and librarians, advice on steps to innovate and initiating non-readers.

She has now launched an award, which will attract nationwide entries, for excellence in best practices in a nurturing learning environment. Entries could be sent till September 5. (IANS)