“I spent eleven years not finishing my Ph.d.”

Vikram Seth, author of the renowned A Suitable Boy, passed much of his life in the economics Ph.d. program at Stanford.  His latest book, Two Lives, recounts:

I discovered soon after I had begun my compulsory courses in macroeconomics and microeconomics that I could not get by without wasting a whole lot of time studying. 

He adds:

The subject was dry, mathematically unrealistic and intellectually unchallenging [TC: it took him eleven years to figure that out???  I know someone who needed less time].

That is from a preface of sorts.  Most of the book concerns Shanti, an Indian relation of Seth’s who moves to Berlin in 1931 to study dentistry; Shanti falls in love with a Jewish girl and later marries her.  The narrative is sentimental and the authorial intrusions are often mawkish, yet the main storyline delivers. 

Keep Seth in mind the next time you feel frustrated at your ne’er do well graduate students.

Addendum: If you, like I, are also a sucker for the Stalinist romance, try Tete-a-Tete: Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, compulsively readable and well above average for its genre.

Second addendum: Read this interview with Seth, thanks to Pablo Halkyard for the pointer.