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Vikram Seth OR The "Indianness" in Writing
fireshowers wrote in indianlit
 I have quietly tiptoed around Vikram Seth for a long time, partly because of the immense bulk of A Suitable Boy (I am an impatient reader). But I had been pelted with bits and pieces of his poetry for a very long time, from different people, and finally someone's very strong recommendation made me pick up and read An Equal Music. I finished the book a little more than a week ago. The music of it keeps staying with me. I think I love the man.


An Equal Music isn't a book about Indians at all. Its protagonists are British, and so are most other characters. The narrative takes place mostly in London but also in Vienna, Rochdale and Venice; and the story is intertwined with a deep understanding of Western classical music, which so few Indians really have (I don't, I admit). 

But despite all that, there's something very Indian about An Equal Music. I cannot put words around it. I think if I was just given the text of the novel and not told who wrote it, I could've still sensed the touch of the Indian author. This is not to undermine the uniqueness of Seth, who I think is a wonderful writer in his own right. But this inherent Indianness that I'm trying to pinpoint is something that had troubled me when I read The English Patient. I had loved the book, and the sleeve had told me that Michael Ondaatje was Canadian, and it wasn't until long after that I discovered his Sri Lankan connection. Reading The English Patient had left me wondering, instead, how a Western man could write like that - and of course, as I later realised, Ondaatje isn't an entirely Western man. What am I trying to drive at? Is it something about the unique philosophy of our South Asian cultures... the way we interpret life... the way we value people... the way we hear music? Is there an academic term for this? Does anyone know here know it?


Any and every comment would be appreciated.

This is fascinating. I have this open in a tab to comment more on when my brain is less fried.

this weather is not at all conducive to unfried brains, i'm afraid. mine has been no better for a very long time.

Read Suitable Boy, once you get into it, you will be hooked!!

That's interesting. Yes there is something about his style - I'm not sure, maybe it's the involvement and precision of the prose that make it sound Indian?

This post has coaxed me into joining now since I'm the one who recommended the book in question...now I've got to go and read some of those other books :)

I know the feeling. Im a pretty impatient reader as well. And everytime I come across A Suitable Boy in book stores and libraries I'm always put off by the bulk size. And I had my first (and last, as of now)taste of Vikram Seth through An Equal Music as well. A big book in its own right. But a mustard seed when you look at A Suitable Boy. I wish it came in parts. It would be so much more appealing.


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