The Corner

Story Time

In Impromptus today, I start a little Salzburg journal — some notes from and on that little cultural capital in Austria. Toward the beginning, I quote Vikram Seth, the great Anglo-Indian writer. (I do not use “great” lightly — as in, “What a great hamburger!”) (Of course, that hamburger may well be great.) In the afterword to his novel An Equal Music, Seth writes, “Music to me is dearer even than speech.” I reviewed that novel for NR when it came out in 1999 — go here, if you like. And the title of that review is “Seth, Rhymes with ‘Great’” (which it does).

Why am I bringing this up here in the Corner? Because it gives me an excuse to tell one of my favorite stories — a story that belongs to our incomparable Midge Decter. She was participating in some U.N. conference, I believe. And she met an Indian woman whose name tag said she was So-and-so Seth. Midge said, “Good to meet you, Mrs. Seth,” rhyming it with great. The other woman said, “How did you know how to pronounce my name?” Midge said, “Because of the author.” The other lady said, “I’m his mother.”

Small world. But India — big place.

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