Friday, July 9, 1999 Published at 11:14 GMT 12:14 UK
Vikram Seth tells his story
Vikram Seth's first novel, A Suitable Boy, sold a million copies worldwide - no mean feat for what is one of the longest novels ever written in the English language. But although his writing has brought him fame, he does not enjoy the limelight.
Born into a wealthy family in Calcutta in 1952, Seth was educated at Oxford, Stanford and Nanjing universities, where he studied economics.
But Seth soon gave up a promising career as an economist to go into "the risky business of writing novels so fat I never thought anyone would read it".
At a marathon 1300-plus pages, Seth admits that the novel "ran away" from him and "became a monster".
"I thought I would not be able to sell it or if I sold it, it would be to a very small market," says Seth, but the book became an overnight publishing sensation.
Seth, who has already written a novel in verse, five books of poetry and a non-fictional account of his travels through China, is less concerned about the books critical success.
"There's nothing much you can do about that," he says.
"One shouldn't take the eulogies that one gets too seriously nor should one take the worst of the denigration, the truth is somewhere betwixt and between and you can only do the best you can."
He came up with the idea, whilst walking across London's Hyde Park where he saw a man staring intensely into the water.
Seth often bases his characters on his own family and doesn't mince his words.
"You cannot get away from writing about difficult subjects and if it involves people getting upset you hope at least they'll understand your motivations in writing about these things.
"I think that they do realise that being a writer I can't gild the lily, or rather gild the cactus."
"I am one of the lucky people," he says.
"Even at the worst times I thought to myself 'At least I know what I want to do'. How many people in the world know that?"
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