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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
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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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5 Must Read Books For This October

Here are the five books that we can't wait to read this October:

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International titled book by acclaimed authors will once again rule the roost in October, along with a biography of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and a splendid story for children, woven around the life of late President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

There will be other significant releases during the month, primarily “The Girl in Room 105” by Chetan Bhagat; an “Intimate Portrait of Jahangir” by Parvati Sharma; the final book from the late Professor Stephen Hawking; and John Grisham’s “The Reckoning”.

Here are the five books that we can’t wait to read this October:

1. Killing Commendatore, by Haruki Murakami (Penguin)

In “Killing Commendatore”, a 30-something portrait painter in Tokyo is abandoned by his wife and finds himself holed up in the mountain home of a famous artist, Tomohiko Amada. When he discovers a strange painting in the attic, he unintentionally opens a circle of mysterious circumstances. To close it, he must complete a journey that involves a strange ringing bell, a two-foot-high physical manifestation of an Idea, a dapper businessman who lives across the valley, a precocious 13-year-old girl, a Nazi assassination attempt during World War II in Vienna, a pit in the woods behind the artist’s home, and an underworld haunted by Double Metaphors.

Billed as a “tour de force of love and loneliness, war and art — as well as a loving homage to “The Great Gatsby” — this book, the publisher said, is a stunning work of imagination from one of our greatest writers.

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The Book Killing Commendatore, by Haruki Murakami.

2. Every Breath, by Nicholas Sparks (Hachette)

From the No.1 bestselling author of “The Notebook” comes an unforgettable tale of enduring love this October.

“Hope Anderson is at a crossroads. At thirty-six, she’s been dating her boyfriend, an orthopedic surgeon, for six years. With no wedding plans in sight, and her father recently diagnosed with ALS, she decides to use a week at her family’s cottage in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, to ready the house for sale and mull over some difficult decisions about her future. Tru Walls has never visited North Carolina but is summoned to Sunset Beach by a letter from a man claiming to be his father. A safari guide, born and raised in Zimbabwe, Tru hopes to unravel some of the mysteries surrounding his mother’s early life and recapture memories lost with her death. When the two strangers cross paths, their connection is as electric as it is unfathomable… but in the immersive days that follow, their feelings for each other will give way to choices that pit family duty against personal happiness in devastating ways.”

The publisher said that the novel illuminates life’s heart-breaking regrets and enduring hope, and explores the many facets of love that lay claim to our deepest loyalties — and asks the question: How long can a dream survive?

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The Book Every Breathh, by Nicholas Spark

3. Bridge of Clay, by Markus Zusak (Penguin)

This is a story told inside-out and back-to-front by the author of the popular “The Book Thief”.

“The five Dunbar brothers are living — fighting, dreaming, loving — in the perfect squalor of a house without grown-ups. Today, the father who walked out on them long ago is about to walk right back in.” But why has he returned and who have the boys become in the meantime? At the helm, the publisher informed IANS, is Matthew, cynical, poetic; Rory, forever truanting; Henry, the money-spinner; and Tommy, the pet collector who has populated the house with dysfunctional pets, including Achilles the mule and Rosy the border collie. “And then there’s Clay, the quiet one, his whole young life haunted by an unspeakable act.”

From a grandfather, whose passion for the ancient Greeks still colours their lives, to a mother and father who fell in love over a mislaid piano, to the present day, where five sons dwell in a house with no rules, “Bridge of Clay” is said to be an epic portrait of how a ramshackle family, held together by stories and by love, come to unbury one boy’s tragic secret.

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The promotional picture of the book ‘The bridge of clay’ by Mark Zusak

4. Mohan Bhagwat: Influencer-in-Chief, by Kingshuk Nag (Rupa)

With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in power at the Centre since 2014, there is growing interest in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which is perceived as the power behind the throne. Is this true? How much does RSS influence the government of the day? How does it use this influence? Is policymaking in the government dependent on the diktats of the RSS or is the reverse correct? More importantly, what role did RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat play in bringing the BJP and Narendra Modi to power? With the 2019 election not too far away, what is the critical thinking in the upper echelons of the Sangh? How does it propose to forge an alliance that will propel the saffron party to power again?

“Mohan Bhagwat: Influencer-in-Chief”, the publisher said, looks incisively at the Sangh and its world view, its inner workings, and how it has moulded the Indian mind-set. It also focuses on Mohan Bhagwat and examines what propels him to spread the influence of the Sangh across the nation.

Also Read: Ten Inspirational Quotes by APJ Abdul Kalam on His Second Death Anniversary

5. The Adventures of Young Kalam, by Stuti Agarwal (Juggernaut)

And finally, why should adults have all the fun? Meet Kalam, perhaps you know him well already! He is the cleverest little boy in his school, perhaps even in his town, Rameswaram. He is annoyingly curious, full of crazy ideas and up to mad innovations. Everyone around him thinks he is bonkers and best avoided — all except his dad, two best friends and Professor Ramachandran, the science teacher in whose little laboratory he tests all his inventions. But when the school’s most horrid teacher, Punnakai, spreads lies about the professor’s experiments and plots to throw Kalam out for his latest creation, the two have to find a way to fight back.

The book casts an iconic new character like Chhota Bheem by weaving a fictional narrative for children around India’s late President A.P.J. Kalam. (VOA)