Friday, August 16, 2013

Pushkin inspires Seth -- novels in verse

      My enjoyment of novels in verse began to thrive when a friend and I determined to get into Vikram's Seth's The Golden Gate (Random House, 1986) by taking turns reading its sonnets aloud to each other. After several dozen aloud, I could hear the voice even when I read silently and I went on to finish alone. And I loved it. I have gone on to enjoy several more works by Seth -- none of them poems but all wonderful stories, well told.
      Seth has said that he was moved to write by the novel Alexander Pushkin's verse novel Eugene Onegin noted here on 10 August 2013 -- a novel of interest to mathematicians because of its link to Markov Chains. Seth's novel (reviewed here) also was made into an opera. These first two stanzas -- each containing the numbers 26 and 1980 -- introduce the novel's computer-guy, John:

from The Golden Gate     by Vikram Seth 

To make a start more swift and weighty,
Hail Muse. Dear Reader, once upon
A time, say, circa 1980,
There lived a man. His name was John.
Successful in his field though only
Twenty-six, respected, lonely,
One evening as he walked across
Golden Gate Park, the ill-judged toss
Of a red frisbee almost brained him.
He thought, "Who'd gloat? Who would be glad?
Would anybody? " As it pained him,
He turned from this dispiriting theme
To ruminations less extreme.

He tuned his thoughts to electronic
Circuitry. This soothed his mind.
He left irregular (moronic)
Sentimentality behind.
He thought of or-gates and of and-gates,
Of ROMs, of nor-gates, and of nand-gates,
Of nanoseconds, megabytes,
And bits and nibbles… but as flights
Of silhouetted birds move cawing
Across the pine-serrated sky,
Dragged from his cove, not knowing why,
He feels an urgent riptide drawing
Him far out, where, caught in the kelp
Of loneliness, he cries for help.

The nine opening stanzas of The Golden Gate are available here at

No comments:

Post a Comment