SETH, Vikram. Two Lives. London: Clays Ltd, St Ives plc for Little, Brown, 2005.

Octavo (233 x 152mm), pp. [8 (half-title, other works by Seth, title, colophon, fly-title, verso blank, dedication, verso blank)], 503, [1 (blank)]. 12 half-tone plates with illustrations recto-and-verso, illustrations in the text, some full-page. Original maroon boards, upper board with central gilt design, spine lettered and decorated in gilt, patterned endpapers, dustwrapper, not price-clipped. (Light marking on board-edges, dustwrapper slightly creased at edges and with offsetting of colour from board-edges onto inner folds.) A very good, fresh copy. 

First edition, signed by the author on the title-page. The writer Vikram Seth was born in Kolkata in 1952 and educated at schools in India and England before pursuing undergraduate studies at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and postgraduate studies at Stanford University and Nanjing University. Accomplished in many literary genres – including poetry, novels, travel books, children’s literature, and libretti – Seth achieved international fame with his epic novel A Suitable Boy (1993). 

Two Lives is an account of the remarkable lives of Shanti Behari Seth and Helga (‘Henny’) Gerda Caro (Seth’s great-uncle and great-aunt respectively). Shanti Seth (1908-1998) was born in India and sent in the 1930s to Berlin to study medicine and dentistry (despite knowing no German), where he lodged with the cultured and intensely patriotic German-Jewish family of Henny Caro (1908-1989); when Henny fled German for England she was met at Victoria Station by Shanti – the only person she knew in England – whom she would eventually marry in 1951. Seth’s narrative is ‘an extraordinary tapestry of India, the Third Reich and the Second World War, Auschwitz and the Holocaust, India and Palestine, post-war Germany and 1970s Britain. Two Lives is both a history of a violent century seen through the eyes of two survivors as well as an intimate portrait of their friendship, marriage and abiding yet complex love’ (dustwrapper blurb).


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