cover image Up at Oxford

Up at Oxford

Ved Mehta, Ved Metha. W. W. Norton & Company, $25 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-393-03544-5

Mehta, the well-known Indian-born writer, affectionately relives his undergraduate years at Oxford's Balliol College in an amusing, wonderfully observant, self-deprecating memoir. Despite his constant struggle to find his footing on the English class ladder, and the inconveniences and frustrations caused by his blindness, Mehta ( Daddyji ) became an irrepressible Anglophile in the small, intimate, yet worldly Oxford of 1956-1959. With tart irony he sketches eccentric dons, his troubled friends (one of whom committed suicide), towering scholars, aspiring novelists and poets. He also plays host to E. M. Forster and recalls how scruffy visiting beatnik poets Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso ruffled shy Oxford poetry professor W. H. Auden. The volume ends as Mehta, educated in the United States since age 15, passes a harrowing oral exam and makes a triumphant return to India after nearly a decade abroad. (Sept.)