Two Lives

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“The heartrending story of a two people, a marriage, and a century from the author of A Suitable Boy. . . . “[A] thoughtful, evocative, moving book.”—Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World

Two Lives is an extraordinary tapestry of India, the Third Reich and the Second World War, Auschwitz and the Holocaust, Israel and Palestine, postwar Germany and 1970s Britain. Part biography, part memoir, part meditation on our times, here is a masterful work from one of our greatest living writers.In this magnificent, tender story, Vikram Seth offers both a history of a violent century as well as an intimate portrait of an unlikely friendship, marriage, and abiding yet complex love: that of his beloved uncle, Shanti Behari Seth, an immigrant from India, and his aunt, Helga Gerda Caro, a German Jew who was forced to flee her homeland by the Nazis. 

With Two Lives, Seth has written “a truly heroic tale which demonstrates just how much can sometimes be achieved against monstrous odds.” (Washington Times)

“A great love story, involving two remarkable people.” “Eloquent and elegiacal . . . An intricate study of the way lives and worlds can intertwine . . . [Two Lives] also tells the story of the Holocaust from a new angle.” “Seth is a meticulous biographer . . . Two Lives is more than a touching family memoir. His great-uncle Shanti and great-aunt Henny’s lives neatly spanned the past century and World War II, which both devastated them and brought them together . . . Having set their lives out, unvarnished and un-prettified, in robust health and decrepit decay, Seth makes them better than great. He makes them human.” “Seth turns biography into powerful literature, distilling the universal human emotions of passion, grief and the will to survive.” “Full of affection and tenderness . . . An unfailingly respectful memoirist.” “[A] beautiful, loving, clear-eyed book . . . What Seth has done here is draw multiple paths between now and then, between pre-war and post-war, between visceral personal details and the big historical picture . . . Seth lays all this out in a translucent, telling prose.” “Sensitive and compassionate. [Seth’s] prose fulfills the obligation Primo Levi once defined for writers on the Holocaust: it is unadorned and clear.” “I cannot remember ever being quite so moved by a memoir, as I have been by Vikram Seth’s wonderfully composed and unutterably tender story of his beloved Uncle Shanti and Aunt Henny. We have long known the author as being one of the most memorable voices in contemporary literature, and so we expected much from this long-anticipated book: his achievement has exceeded all possible expectations.” “Engaging . . . Even as you enjoy one [story], you discover another within . . . There’s an unlikely story of a love which endured more than five decades . . . A compelling sketch of life in Nazi Germany . . . The writer’s loving—yet probing—examination of Shanti and Henny as human beings . . . By the time you close this book you will find that you miss them.” “Wonderful . . . A truly heroic tale which demonstrates just how much can sometimes be achieved against monstrous odds.” “Extraordinary . . . Readers who get a thrill out of seeing a thoughtful, engrossing narrative teased out of seemingly ordinary lives will find this remarkable book offers rich rewards.” “An immensely moving narrative . . . Seth’s voice is a fluent, graceful and compassionate one, and the story he tells—in a sense, it’s every family’s story—should have irresistible appeal. Another triumph for one the most versatile and engaging of all contemporary writers.” “Page-turning momentum that’s reminiscent of Tolstoy . . . Seth paints a portrait of a generation on a vast canvas, shining a light on the struggle to survive in Europe during and after ‘the war.’ It is a compulsively readable memoir about one family’s destiny.” “A deeply engaging . . . beautiful book . . . These two individuals, from widely divergent religious and cultural backgrounds, bring together on a larger plane two important national stories of the twentieth century: India during the years of division between and discord among Hindus and Muslims, and Germany under the anti-Semitic Nazi regime.” “The heartrending story of a two people, a marriage, and a century from the author of A Suitable Boy. . . . “[A] thoughtful, evocative, moving book . . . [Seth] is an amazingly gifted, accomplished, resourceful and charming writer.” “A subtle portrait of the complexities of a long companionship . . . A wonderful book.”

Additional information

Weight 14 oz
Dimensions 1 × 5 × 8 in