Togetherness, once removed

From The Guardian:Seth

The ‘two lives’ of Vikram Seth’s new book belonged to his great-uncle, Shanti, and his great-aunt, Henny. Seth went to live with them in Hendon, north London, when he came from India to boarding school at Tonbridge aged 17. The curiosity they inspired in him then grew over the years into the kind of obsession that fuels his writing.

Seth’s uncle was a dentist who had left Delhi to train in Europe; he lost an arm at Monte Cassino having volunteered for the Medical Corps in the war, but continued to practise until his retirement. His aunt was a German Jew who escaped in 1939, before her mother and sister were sent on transports and killed in Auschwitz and Theriesenstadt. Seth has spent much of the past six years trying to reconstruct their remarkable marriage from letters and memories and interviews he conducted with his uncle before his death. Despite all his efforts, he is left with a sense of incompleteness. ‘I’m not sure anyone can understand a whole life,’ he says, ‘even their own.’

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