Author: Vikram Seth
Publisher: Writers Workshop
Publishing Date: 1980
Mappings is a first book of poems by Vikram Seth originally published by the Writers Workshop, Calcutta (now Kolkata), as a hand-set, hand-printed and hand-bound volume. With the growth of Seth's reputation, the volume has been reprinted by mainstream publishers.
Original poems range from a cautionary tale in rhyming couplets ‘The Tale Of Melon City’, through Seth's characteristic musings - some serious and some light-hearted - on life, love and landscape, to the title poem reflecting on the different selves "mapped" by his earlier writings. Interspersed with these are translations (one each) from the Chinese of Du Fu, the Urdu of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, the German of Heinrich Heine and the Hindi of Suryakant Tripathi Nirala. Other poems include 'The Frog and the Nightingale'.
Seth’s first published book of poetry includes translations of poems from Hindi, German, and Chinese. The book reflects mixed feelings of nostalgia for India after studying for years in England and the United States.
His original work expresses his vigorous discomposure, the melancholic time of his insatiable, and equivocal feelings toward family. These lines from “Panipat” show the poet’s sense of being caught between two cultures:
“Family, music, faces, food, land, everything drew me back, yet now to hear the koyal sing brings notes of other birds, The nightingale, the wren, The blackbird; and my heart’s Barometer turns down.”
Seth reports on surfaces and the inconsequential things of life while using the traditional forms of the sonnet, quatrain, and epigrammatic couplet. Critics liked the book for Seth’s unassuming tone and technical discipline. Themes of the poems include a refusal to look inward and a celebration of the simple pleasures of life. The poems directs towards one’s solitude and the jeopardies of a cosmetic, untrue, and an unauthentic life. Seth sometimes uses a illusory form to mock sentiments, as these lines below indicate:
“There is so much to do/ There isn’t any time for feeling blue./ There isn’t any point in feeling sad./ Things could be worse. Right now they’re only bad.”
Seth’s expert use of irony, humour, and ease with language express the habits of an not so romantic and eclectic contemporary mind.
About the Author:
Born in 1952 in Calcutta, India, Vikram Seth was educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, Stanford University and Nanjing University.
He has travelled widely and lived in Britain, California, India and China. His first novel, The Golden Gate: A Novel in Verse (1986), describes the experiences of a group of friends living in California. His acclaimed epic of Indian life, A Suitable Boy (1993), won the WH Smith Literary Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best Book). Set in India in the early 1950s, it is the story of a young girl, Lata, and her search for a husband. An Equal Music (1999) is the story of a violinist haunted by the memory of a former lover. Vikram Seth is also the author of a travel book, From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet (1983), an account of a journey through Tibet, China and Nepal that won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, and a libretto, Arion and the Dolphin: A Libretto (1994), which was performed at the English National Opera in June 1994, with music by Alec Roth. His poetry includes Mappings (1980), The Humble Administrator's Garden (1985), winner of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Asia), and All You Who Sleep Tonight: Poems (1990). His children's book, Beastly Tales from Here and There (1992), consists of ten stories about animals told in verse.
Vikram Seth's latest works include Two Lives (2005), a memoir of the marriage of his great uncle and aunt, and Summer Requiem (2015), a book of poems.