Paul Scott was born in the north London suburb of Southgate in 1920, from a Yorkshire commercial artist father and a South London mother Frances Mark, a former shop clerk. He was the younger of two sons.
Paul Scott was educated in Winchmore Hill Collegiate, a private school where his education was abruptly ended at the age of 16 due to his father’s business being in financial difficulty. He decided to make a career in accountancy.
Paul Scott was conscripted to the army in 1940, and in 1941 was married in Torquay to Nancy Edith Avery called Penny. He was sent to India in 1943 as an officer cadet and ended the war as captain in the Indian Army Service Corps.
After completing his duty in India, he went back to live in London with his family. His two daughters, Carol and Sally were born in 1947 and 1948.
In 1950 Paul Scott became a director while working for the literary agent Pearn Pollinger and Higham and from 1960 onwards he dedicated himself full time to writing. His books were not recognised until quite late and he died in 1978 in hospital in London from colon cancer.
Paul Scott wrote several novels:
Johnnie Sahib in 1952.
The Alien Sky in 1953.
A Male Child in 1956.
Mark of The Warrior in 1958.
Chinese Love Pavilion in 1960.
Birds of Paradise in 1962.
The Bender in 1963.
The Corrida at San Feliu in 1964.
The Raj Quartet:
1. The Jewel in the Crown in 1966.
2. The Day of the Scorpion in 1968.
3. The Towers of Silence in 1971.
4. A Division of the Spoils in 1974.
The Raj Quartet was made into a television series under the name of “The Jewel In The Crown”.
Staying On in 1977 won the Booker Prize award and was made into a film in 1979 by Granada television. He also wrote reviews for The Times, the Times Literary Supplement, the New Statesman, and Country Life.
In 1976 and 1977 he was “visiting professor” at University of Tulsa in Oklahoma U.S.A.
Staying On is a sequel to The Raj Quartet set in the Anglo-Indian frame several years after India gained its independence in 1947.
The two main characters are Tusker and Lucy Smalley, a retired ageing British couple, mentioned briefly in The Raj Quartet novels. Married for forty years and living an uncommunicative marriage, they decide to Stay On in a small bungalow in the hills of Pankot, a small town in India. Despite being deprived of their colonial status and despite the changing times in India and the seediness of the place, they opt to stay rather than return home to England due to financial need. “I knew the pension would go further in India than in England” Tusker says to his wife.
The novel is set in 1972. It narrates the present and the past with funny, sometimes sad and sometimes touching style, the poignant silent loyalty and the resentful trust and reliance between the ageing couple (Tusker and Lucy).
The story starts with Tusker’s death. All the events in the book are a flashback till the end when the author brings back Tusker’s death in order to re-knot the beginning with the end.
Throughout the book Tusker is painted as a selfish, inconsiderate, grumpy character, but by the end and before his death, he reveals his soft, hidden, endearing side, which makes his departing deeply moving.
Nothing much appears to happen in the book, but the story is still engrossing due to the vivid description of the characters and the bittersweet subject.
Tusker and Lucy have seen better days during the time of the Raj, but those days are over and now they have to lead a modest life, “hang on”, swallow their pride, and endure the grotesque Mrs Bhoolabhoy’s bad temper. “ ‘Oh, Mrs Bhoolabhoy, Lucy began, we’re expecting a guest on Wednesday. I wonder if you’d kindly book a room-‘ ‘I have already told Colonel Smalley I can’t be bothered with that… I have other things to deal with. All I want to know is about the shears.’ ‘Shears?’ ‘Shears. Shears. Shears!’ Mrs Bhoolabhoy raised her arms and made motions. Snick-snick. Shears!’ she shouted… I will not have my property taken off the premises…She waddled away, leaving behind her a trail of sandalwood perfume which,to Lucy, was like the pungent smell of her own smouldering outraged dignity.”
Ibrahim, the Smalley’s manservant is etched in a funny light hearted way. His conversation with the mali gardener, Joseph, is hilarious : “’Ibrahim,’ Joseph said,’what happens if you are pushed by both Sahib and Memsahib ? ‘Given push, not pushed. Get idiom right.’ ‘what happens if you are given push by Sahib and Memsahib at one and the same time?’ Ibrahim looked at him thoughtfully. He said.’Suddenly you are a philosopher as well as a gardener? You are entering realm of metaphysics ? Joseph Einstein is it ? Versed in the theory of time and relativity? Haven’t I just made it plain that Sahib and Memsahib are always at logger-heads and that sometimes they do not even know what time of day it is, even in Pankot ?”
Paul Scott chose India as a rich and colourful frame work for his books, because since the time he was posted there, he fell in love with the country and wanted to convey his enthusiasm to English people, in particular for those who heard about this vast country but never visited it nor interested themselves in discovering its varied cultures.
In 1972 referring to his whole career to date, Paul Scott told his audience during his British council tour of India : “My proper answer to the question,’why do you, as a modern English novelist of serious pretensions, bother to write about the time-expired subject of the British Raj?’ is, must be, if my novels are novels at all, because the last days of the British Raj are the metaphor I have presently chosen to illustrate my view of life.”