Paul Scott: A Brief Introduction

Jacqueline Banerjee, Ph.D

[Adapted and updated with permission from the publishers, from Paul Scott, Writers and Their Work series (Plymouth: Northcote House/ British Council, 1999), by Jacqueline Banerjee, Ph.D.]

Paul Scott (1920-1978) was born in North London, the second son of a struggling commercial artist and a mother who had burned her unpublished novels the night before her wedding. Scott's boyhood hobby of producing amateur films led him to invent dialogue — verbal images would always provide essential starting-points for his writing. Forced to leave school early and enter into a career in accountancy, he was unable to devote himself to writing until 1960. By then, he had found both his medium — the novel — and his main subject matter — India. He had been posted in India during the war, and his fascination with it never waned.

Scott is mainly known today for his four inter-related novels about the events leading up to the end of the British Raj. These were published in a one-volume edition in 1976, as The Raj Quartet. In the same year, he published their coda, Staying On, and this was awarded the Booker Prize in the following year. By then, however, he was suffering from cancer, and too ill to attend the prize-giving ceremony. He died in 1978, leaving a wife and two daughters. Despite the popularity of the Quartet, which has been serialised on television and radio (latest serialisation, April-May 2005), he has not achieved much critical attention, perhaps because, until quite recently, his work was not felt to fit into the postcolonial agenda.

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Last modified 24 May 2005