LONDON (Reuters) - Indian poet and novelist Vikram Seth is writing a sequel to his acclaimed, monumental story “A Suitable Boy” to be titled “A Suitable Girl.”
Penguin imprint Hamish Hamilton bought the English language rights to the new novel, excluding the United States, from Seth’s agent David Godwin, and expects it to be published in 2013, 20 years after the original book.
Asked why he was returning to his best-known work, which sold more than a million copies in its UK paperback edition despite being more than 1,300 pages long, he replied:
“I think it’s just that I suddenly got the idea not of taking up the story in 1952 where I had left it, but rather to take it up in the present.
“In other words, not just a sequel but to write what you could call a jump sequel,” he told Reuters in an interview.
In A Suitable Boy, the central character is the young and rebellious Lata whose mother attempts to find her a husband.
The family saga is played out in post-independence India, and examines the traditions and political and religious upheavals of the time.
In A Suitable Girl, Lata is 75-80 years old and looking for a wife for her grandson, “whether he is thinking about it or not,” Seth said.
“That allows me in a sense to bring a whole lot of post-independence history to bear on the novel. It allows me to live in the present.
“I’m doing something quite different to keep myself interested rather than just writing another historical book that I’ve written before. I hope it can be read by a person who hasn’t read the other book as well as by people who have.”
Seth said he was not out to portray any particular passages of India’s post-independence history, but only those that were relevant to his characters.
He did, however, expect A Suitable Girl to reflect changes he had seen in his native country.
“The last election that we had ... there was a pretty clear indication that people were not going to be, in spite of what happened in Bombay recently, led by people who were jingoistic or anti-Muslim, so that really helps.”
He was referring to Islamist militant attacks in Mumbai in November that killed more than 180 people.
“Now with the judgment, for example, that came out this morning by the Delhi High Court, again one can see how ... the climate of opinion has changed.
“Many things have changed in India and many things have remained the same and that’s going to be part of the fascination of writing this book.”
On Thursday the Delhi High Court ruled that gay sex was not a crime, bolstering demands that the government scrap a British colonial law which bans homosexual sex.
Seth, who reportedly received a seven-figure advanced fee for family memoir “Two Lives,” declined to discuss how much he was paid by Penguin, which has published him in India before.
“Money isn’t the motivation,” he said. “I certainly fight hard for it because I want to make a living and I don’t have patrons ... but I spend most of my time writing poetry, for example, and there is nothing less remunerative.”
A Suitable Boy took Seth 10 years to complete, including planning, publicizing “and recovering,” but he was confident he could meet the target date of 2013 with A Suitable Girl.
“I have something to go on. I kind of know the characters,” he said, before adding: “But I am quite a lazy person as well as obsessive, so who knows when the book will actually get done? I hope it’ll get done by the target date.”
Editing by Paul Casciato