Vikram Seth announces a sequel to A Suitable Boy, to be set in the present
CHENNAI: Now, it is going to be A Suitable Girl. For all those who enjoyed the immensely popular novel A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth offers a sequel.
On Thursday he told the world that the new novel would be published by Penguin in autumn 2013. Penguin’s Hamish Hamilton imprint (to be launched in India this July) has bought world English language rights (excluding the U.S.) from Vikram Seth’s agent, David Godwin.
A Suitable Boy, when it was published in 1993, sold over a quarter of a million copies in hardback and over a million copies in paperback. It was set against the backdrop of newly-independent India and followed the lives of four families across several cities, as the central character Lata Mehra’s mother searched for a suitable groom for her.
“After A Suitable Boy my publisher and agents said why don’t you write another book. But how do you write unless you are inspired. I wasn’t inspired so long. But by jumping 60 years [from the period A Suitable Boy was set in] I have been inspired,” Vikram Seth told The Hindu in a conversation from England.
Essentially, then, the sequel will bring up the narrative to the present day. “I’m still in the stage where I’m wool-gathering,” he said. “It is difficult to say in advance what format the novel will follow,” he said in response to a question on whether it would be suitably epic in rendering like its predecessor was. He went on, however, to hint that it would take off from where A Suitable Boy ended.
“At this stage, I know that it is set in the present. Lata is going to be 80 years old. She may be married to her husband Haresh, or she may be widowed. A Suitable Girl is being sought for her grandson, who confides in her quite a bit. Of course in a different fashion [from A Suitable Boy].”
With the publisher giving him the 2013 deadline, he jokes that he is all set to write “between 10 – 10,000 pages” in about four years. “It is going to be largely set in India, but could also involve other nations. It depends on the social class of various people in the novel,” Mr. Seth says, indicating that the novel would evolve over the years. But this, he is clear about, “It will not sound like a historical novel as A Suitable Boy did. It will be set in the present, less historical, but the intervening 60-year period will figure in it,” he said. Penguin says the novel will encompass some of the enormous social and economic changes that India has undergone in the last 60 years.
The deadline, 2013, is significant in that it marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of A Suitable Boy. In 2013, Penguin will put the book into its distinguished Modern Classics list. In the intervening years, Penguin will also publish a new volume of Vikram Seth’s poems and a new book of essays. Simon Prosser, Publishing Director of Hamish Hamilton UK, commented, ‘Since I first read The Golden Gate I have been a devoted follower of Vikram’s writing . . . I cannot believe my good fortune in being able to work with Vikram on his next few books, including the sequel to the extraordinary A Suitable Boy.’
Ravi Singh, Publisher of Penguin India, said A Suitable Boy was, in many ways, a defining work of contemporary Indian writing and a defining book for Penguin India. “It will be a huge honour to publish Vikram again, with A Suitable Girl — easily among the most eagerly awaited sequels ever — and new collections of his poems and essays.’