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Getting on

Gabriele Annan, 20 December 1984

The Ledge between the Streams 
by Ved Mehta.
Harvill, 531 pp., £12.50, July 1984, 0 00 272153 8
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... At the beginning of The Ledge between the Streams, the fourth volume of his autobiography, Ved Mehta has got to 1942. Many of his readers will already know that he is a blind Indian writer living in New York, and that he was born in the Punjab in 1934, the son of an ‘England-returned’ doctor in the government medical service ...

A Hindu Marriage

Gabriele Annan, 19 June 1980

Mamaji 
by Ved Mehta.
Oxford, 334 pp., £6.95, April 1980, 0 19 502640 3
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... In 1956, when he was 22 and about to go up to Oxford, Ved Mehta finished an autobiography, Face to Face: a provisional one, naturally, under the circumstances. In 1972, he published Daddyji, a life of his father. Daddyji was born circa 1895, but the book reaches back to the birth of the grandfather, and beyond: though the beyond is rather shadowy ...

Being there

Ian Hamilton, 7 October 1993

Up at Oxford 
by Ved Mehta.
Murray, 432 pp., £17.99, September 1993, 0 7195 5287 7
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... When Ved Mehta enrolled as an undergraduate at Balliol in 1956, he thought he had arrived in heaven. He was at ‘the holiest of holy places’. For three years he would be dwelling ‘among the world’s liveliest minds, in one of the most beautiful spots on the planet’. As a child in India and as an adolescent studying in the United States, he had been told, by his father, his teachers, by the books he read, that Oxford for the British was ‘like the Hardwar of the Hindus, the Mecca of the Muslims, the Golden Temple of the Sikhs ...

Chasing Kites

Michael Wood: The Craziness of Ved Mehta, 23 February 2006

The Red Letters: My Father’s Enchanted Period 
by Ved Mehta.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 190 pp., £15.99, November 2004, 0 9543520 6 8
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Remembering Mr Shawn’s ‘New Yorker’ 
by Ved Mehta.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 414 pp., £19.99, November 2004, 9780954352059
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Dark Harbour 
by Ved Mehta.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 272 pp., £17.99, November 2004, 0 9543520 4 1
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... and may be genuine even when they pick the wrong occasion. This perception is precisely where Ved Mehta’s memoir The Red Letters ends, and with it his extraordinary 11-volume autobiography, Continents of Exile, begun in 1972. Mehta is remembering his father’s tears at a particular, unlikely moment, and ...

What is progress?

William Doyle, 6 March 1986

What is history? 
by E.H. Carr, edited by R.W. Davies.
Macmillan, 154 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 333 38956 5
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... completely to change his mind about the Whig interpretation. But in 1962 Butterfield told Ved Mehta that the passage cited by Carr to make this point had first been written in 1938. When Butterfield revealed this to Carr, he simply refused to believe it. Here was the dogmatic mind behind the seductive logic that makes What is history? such ...

Heat-Seeking

Susan Pedersen: A.J.P. Taylor, 10 May 2007

A.J.P. Taylor: Radical Historian of Europe 
by Chris Wrigley.
Tauris, 439 pp., £25, August 2006, 1 86064 286 1
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... soon afterwards to tap out his thousand words a day (‘I try not to write more,’ he told Ved Mehta), he turned out a steady stream of books (including The Struggle for Mastery and English History) while dazzling undergraduates with gripping and perfectly timed lectures. Those years also saw Taylor’s evolution from a don who did some ...

Liquidator

Neal Ascherson: Hugh Trevor-Roper, 19 August 2010

Hugh Trevor-Roper: The Biography 
by Adam Sisman.
Weidenfeld, 598 pp., £25, July 2010, 978 0 297 85214 8
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... research constantly reveals that the odd creature inside the spiky shell was all too vulnerable. Ved Mehta, interviewing Trevor-Roper for the New Yorker, was reminded of ‘a literary critic who has no love for writers’. But Mehta also recognised that this supercilious professor was part of a larger, very English ...

Where Does He Come From?

Sanjay Subrahmanyam: Placing V.S. Naipaul, 1 November 2007

A Writer’s People: Ways of Looking and Feeling 
by V.S. Naipaul.
Picador, 193 pp., £16.99, September 2007, 978 0 330 48524 1
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... No writers or critics are mentioned by name, and the one attempt at parody seems more directed at Ved Mehta than at any of the younger crop writing in English. The world beyond English, of course, the world of Vishvanatha Satyanarayana, does not exist for Naipaul. It is predictable that the only writer from the 20th century he finds worth discussing at ...

What’s not to like?

Stefan Collini: Ernest Gellner, 2 June 2011

Ernest Gellner: An Intellectual Biography 
by John Hall.
Verso, 400 pp., £29.99, July 2010, 978 1 84467 602 6
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... usual squall in a correspondence-column teacup followed (the episode was given wider currency by Ved Mehta, in a New Yorker article, later republished in Fly and the Fly-Bottle), and Gellner’s name was made. At the same time, the book gave offence where offence was due; after its publication, Hall records, Gellner was ‘effectively expelled from ...

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