It was so good yesterday to catch Vikram Seth interviewed on the BBC's Hardtalk Extra. Seth took time out from the Hay-on-Wye literary festival to talk to Gavin Esler about his memoir/biography Two Lives and the extraordinary lives that inspired it: those of his Uncle Shanti, (a dentist who had studied in Berlin lost his right arm in combat) and his Aunty Henny (a German Jew who lost her mother and sister to the death camps).
Seth also described how supportive his parents were when he decided to quit his job with the Economist and move home to work on his novel A Suitable Boy. He planned it to be just 200-300 pages long when he began it! In the end his parents patiently put up with him for the seven years it took him to complete the book, which grew to a marathon 1,400 pages (even after cuts). An obsession to find out what happened to the characters (many of whom were based on members of his own family) compelled him to complete it. (He describes himself as lazy!) He thanked his parents for their support by buying his mum books for life, and his dad whisky for life!
Seth came across as a really nice guy ... intelligent, warm and funny. As I've said of other favourite writers, the kind of guy you'd like to spend time down the pub with.
Bibliolbibuli's ultimate accolade!
A Suitable Heavyweight (27/8/05)