May 29, 2020
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What is Vikram Seth up to? Who is or are Kalpish Ratna? What is their jugalbandi all about? Notoriety, fame, any difference? Ask Ira Trivedi.


All Seth for Du Fu 

So what does Vikram Seth do in the long years when he vanishes from our P3Ps? Lies in bed, mostly. But lolling about in bed is more work than you imagine. That's where he wrote A Suitable Boy. And that's where he is now in his apartment in Salisbury working at combining his two passions: Chinese poetry and western music. Songs in Times of War, premiering in London this week, is Seth's translations of Du Fu, the 2nd century Chinese poet now regarded as China's greatest. He'll be collaborating for the next four years with composer Alec Roth and violinist Phillippe Honore, introducing and reading Du Fu's work in original and translated.

A Couple of Writers

Jugalbandis in writing aren't entirely rare—remember Dom Moraes and Sarayu Ahuja? But this couple does it long distance. Not content with writing a chapter each and sharing the honours on the title page, two medical surgeons have decided to treat fiction like their patients: one cuts, the other sews till no one can tell who started the story and how it grew. Nyagrodha: The Ficus Chronicles is the beginning of a new partnership for Kalpish Ratna (Kalpana Swaminathan and Ishrat Syed), who collaborated in the past on medical books and reviews. But fiction is different, they say. "We fight like cats and dogs (mostly on e-mail) and Amma (Kalpana's mother) has to play referee for what goes in and what gets excised." 

The K Word

Notoriety, fame, any difference? Says Ira Trivedi, the would-have-been beauty queen whose debut novel left critics wincing: "Thanks to Kaavya, young South Asian writers are now the hottest trend in the US."

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