One of the most celebrated writers of our time, Vikram Seth is the author of three novels—including A Suitable Boy and The Golden Gate (a novel in verse) that are widely regarded as modern classics—and two works of non-fiction. He has also written seven books of poetry, which include an opera libretto and a book of other libretti. He divides his time between the UK and India.
Beastly Tales from Here and There
Since they were first published in 1992, Vikram Seth’s glorious animal fables in verse have delighted young and old alike. Familiar characters in a magical new form—like the tortoise who outran the hare and the monkey who outwitted the greedy crocodile—take their place beside a freshly minted gallery of brilliantly quirky, comical creatures. Of the ten fables told here, two come from India, two from China, two from Greece, two from the Ukraine and two, the author tells us, directly ‘from the land of Gup’.
An opera in nine scenes, Arion and the Dolphin is an enthralling libretto by Vikram Seth, set to music composed by Alec Roth. It tells the tale of Arion, a young musician at the court of Periander in Corinth. Thrown overboard on his return from a musical contest in Sicily, Arion is saved and befriended by a dolphin, but their sublime friendship ends in tragedy.
Written for amateurs and professionals, this libretto is a marvellous story that shimmers with Seth’s singular erudition, charm and poetic imagination.
Three Chinese Poets
Vikram Seth translates three T’ang dynasty poets—Wang Wei (699–761 AD), Li Bai (701–762 AD) and Du Fu (712–770 AD)—who are among the greatest literary figures not only of China, but also the world. Responding differently to their common times, these poets speak to us across a distance of twelve hundred years, and move us as it is rare for even poetry to do.
Translated with grace, empathy and superb craft, this collection is a masterpiece.
All You Who Sleep Tonight
Vikram Seth’s magnificent facility with language, his effortless access to the deepest reservoirs of feeling, and his ability to light up everyday moments are in full display in this collection of poems. He delves into the varieties of love—lost, remembered, and deferred. He speaks of life’s ironies, horrors and regrets in ‘other voices’: the poet Mirza Ghalib; a German commander at Auschwitz; a Japanese doctor in Hiroshima after the bombing. Poignant, witty and wise by turns, and always deeply and bravely human, the poems in these pages are unforgettable.
In this, Vikram Seth’s first book of poems, we are introduced to work written in his twenties, when he was a student in England and, later, California. These poems—about love, life and landscape—are intimate, inventive and immediate. Interspersed with original poems are translations of a poem each by Du Fu (Chinese), Faiz Ahmed Faiz (Urdu), Heinrich Heine (German) and Suryakant Tripathi Nirala (Hindi). The poems in Mappings enchant and impress with their controlled emotion and lyricism, classical learning, wit and perceptiveness—all facets of Vikram Seth’s now famed achievement.
The Humble Administrator’s Garden
In his second collection of poems, Vikram Seth reflects on three cultures he knows well: India, California and China. He writes about Chinese noblemen and hermits; lovers whom he has outgrown or who have outgrown him; the night sounds and sights on a deserted California beach; the power of moonlight and music to both hurt and heal.
The Rivered Earth
Drawing on a range of personal experience and literary influences, and mixing translation and original creation, The Rivered Earth consists of four verse libretti written by Vikram Seth for the composer Alec Roth and violinist Philippe Honoré. The first three, entitled ‘Songs in Time of War’, ‘Shared Ground’ and ‘The Traveller’, are about places—China during the T’ang dynasty, the Salisbury house of the English poet George Herbert, and India, where the poet returned in late middle age. The fourth libretto, ‘Seven Elements’, is about earth, water, wood, metal, fire, air and space—and about ageing and mortality.
Spanning centuries of creativity and humanity, these poems, accompanied by four pieces of calligraphy by Seth, pulse with life, energy and the inspired brilliance of the poet. The Rivered Earth is a work of immense beauty.