Authors: Paul Scott

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Johnnie Sahib, 1952

The Alien Sky, 1953

A Male Child, 1956

The Mark of the Warrior, 1958

The Chinese Love Pavilion, 1960

The Birds of Paradise, 1962

The Bender, 1963

The Corrida at San Feliu, 1964

The Jewel in the Crown, 1966

The Day of the Scorpion, 1968

The Towers of Silence, 1972

A Division of the Spoils, 1975

Staying On, 1976

The Raj Quartet, 1979 (includes The Jewel in the Crown, The Day of the Scorpion, The Towers of Silence, and A Division of the Spoils)

Biography

Paul Mark Scott’s literary legacy is a series of novels, most notably The Raj Quartet, that explore on various levels the waning relationship between India, “the jewel in the crown,” and its British rulers, the Raj. Interestingly, Scott rarely lived more than a few miles from his London birthplace. His mother was from a working-class background, and his father was a commercial artist. Although Scott attended a private school, because of family financial difficulties he was forced into the workplace at the age of fourteen. In 1941 he married Penny Avery; they had two daughters. From the late 1940’s he worked in the publishing profession in London until he retired to write full time in 1960, a vocation he pursued until his death shortly before his fifty-eighth birthday.{$I[AN]9810001576}{$I[A]Scott, Paul}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Scott, Paul}{$I[tim]1920;Scott, Paul}

Scott’s persona and his literary accomplishments were hardly those of a successful London businessman-turned-writer. In many aspects of his life he was a marginal man, caught between conflicting expectations and differing societal norms. By birth and inheritance he was neither working class nor middle class. Before his marriage and perhaps at least once afterward he had a homosexual relationship. When he wrote, he drank–reportedly a bottle of gin each day. His novels received some critical praise, particularly the four volumes of The Raj Quartet, but little popular attention until the eve of his death, when he was awarded Britain’s premier literary accolade, the Booker Prize.

In many ways Scott was the quintessential Londoner, but the most significant period in his life was the three short years he spent in India as a supply officer during and after World War II. His experiences and his observations of the British in India on the eve of independence became manifest in all of his fiction. He was not the only British writer who made British India his subject: Rudyard Kipling and E. M. Forster were notable in illuminating the links between India and the English. A less accomplished British writer, John Masters, achieved popular success in the mid-twentieth century for his use of Indian locales. Coincidentally, when Masters was on the front lines in India, Scott was at the other end providing the needed supplies, and it was Masters, not Scott, who received acclaim in the postwar world.

Between 1952 and 1960 Scott published several competent novels. One critic has called that period and those works Scott’s apprenticeship. He wrote three more novels in the early 1960’s, after he left the publishing industry. Most of his novels were set in India, and all had some connection to the land that had been ruled by the British for almost two hundred years. Scott’s India is more than just an exotic landscape: themes of imperialism and colonialism, superior and inferior, noblesse oblige and deference, and black and white run through his novels. Scott is especially valuable in elucidating the actual operations of the British rule in India, usually at the local level. He is particularly acute in his portrayal of women, generally English in background and birth but becoming intimately connected to the Indian subcontinent. Intertwined and evolving relationships involving class, race, gender and sex, friendship, and violence are at the core of his writings.

The Indian setting that was foreign but also somehow familiar, the themes of opposing tensions, and his layered literary style with its absence of a linear narrative achieved artistic maturity in 1966 with the publication of The Jewel in the Crown, the first volume of what became The Raj Quartet. It begins with the rape of a young English woman who has fallen in love with an Indian who had been educated in private schools in England. Arrested, the man is subjected to abuse by the local superintendent of police, a lower-middle-class Englishman, who resents not only the Indian’s race but also the class implications of his English education. The incident of the rape and its aftermath resonate through the next three volumes of The Raj Quartet: The Day of the Scorpion, The Towers of Silence, and A Division of the Spoils, the latter relating the violent termination of British rule in India in 1947, for which the earlier rape becomes the prefiguring event.

Upon completion of The Raj Quartet Scott received critical acclaim but not general recognition. That recognition came with his final novel, Staying On, a comic but somber coda about an English couple who stay on in diminishing retirement in India after the rule of the Raj ends. It was only after his death, when The Raj Quartet was produced as television’s The Jewel in the Crown, that popular fame came to Scott and his accomplishment.

BibliographyFraser, Kennedy. “Stones of His House.” The New Yorker, May 13, 1991. Valuable insights about Scott and his work.Gorra, Michael. After Empire: Scott, Naipaul, Rushdie. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. Examines issues of national identity and ethnicity as they pertain to Scott’s and other postcolonial novels about India. Concentrates on works by Scott, V. S. Naipaul, and Salman Rushdie.Gorra, Michael. “Writing On.” Review of Paul Scott, by Hilary Spurling. The New Republic, May 20, 1991. A lengthy review of Spurling’s biography; has valuable insights about Scott and his work.Haswell, Janis Tedesco. Paul Scott’s Philosophy of Place(s): The Fiction of Relationality. New York: Peter Lang, 2002. This study of Scott’s work includes an index and bibliography.Rao, Kanatur Bhaskara. Paul Scott. Boston: Twayne, 1980. From Twayne’s English Authors series; includes index and bibliography.Spurling, Hilary. Paul Scott: A Life of the Author of “The Raj Quartet.” New York: W. W. Norton, 1991. Biography describes Scott’s creative process, his perseverance in writing, and his love of India.
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