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The Enchantment of Vidia Naipaul

D.A.N. Jones, 3 May 1984

Finding the Centre: Two Narratives 
by V.S. Naipaul.
Deutsch, 189 pp., £7.95, May 1984, 0 233 97664 7
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A House for Mr Biswas 
by V.S. Naipaul.
Deutsch, 531 pp., £9.95, May 1984, 0 233 95589 5
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... word which our English-speaking forebears have scattered rather too casually about the globe. V.S. Naipaul is an ‘East Indian’, but not from the Dutch East Indies; nor is he an Anglo-Indian, a Red Indian or an Amerindian. He is of Hindu stock, born and bred in the West Indies. His grandfather went to Trinidad from Uttar Pradesh, as an indentured ...

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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... author of this collection of opinion pieces and reminiscences. A quarter of the way into it, V.S. Naipaul offers the reader an insight into his thinking: I had criticised others from my background for their lack of curiosity. I meant curiosity in cultural matters; but the people I criticised would have had their own view of the relative importance of things ...

What Naipaul knows

Frank Kermode: V.S. Naipaul, 6 September 2001

Half a Life 
by V.S. Naipaul.
Picador, 214 pp., £15.99, September 2001, 0 330 48516 4
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... there was plenty of room for misunderstanding, and despite the even-tempered course of Naipaul’s opening pages we already hear a familiar overtone: Occidental attempts to understand India have always failed, and the tragedy of that failure is that Indians, adopting European assumptions without being able to abandon their own, have to live in a ...

Going Native

A.N. Wilson: Theroux’s Portrait of Naipaul, 13 May 1999

Sir Vidia’s Shadow: A Friendship across Five Continents 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 376 pp., £17.99, December 1998, 0 241 14046 3
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... it almost at a sitting. This was certainly not because of any previous obsession with either V.S. Naipaul or Paul Theroux. True, I regard Naipaul as one of the most enthralling writers of our time, even though the subjects he has covered – India, Africa, the putrefaction of the post-colonial world – are not ones which ...

Manager of Stories

Michael Gilsenan: V. S. Naipaul, 3 September 1998

Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions among the Converted Peoples 
by V.S. Naipaul.
Little, Brown, 448 pp., £20, May 1998, 0 316 64361 0
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... though no less disconcerting, consider the bare question of the young Malaysian, Shafi, to V.S. Naipaul some twenty years ago: ‘What is the purpose of your writing?’ Naipaul was gathering material for Among the Believers (1981). Safe as houses and translating freely, though completely lacking Heaney’s subtle ...

Vicious Poke in the Eye

Theo Tait: Naipaul’s fury, 4 November 2004

Magic Seeds 
by V.S. Naipaul.
Picador, 294 pp., £16.99, September 2004, 0 330 48520 2
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... is my middle name Somerset?”’ So begins Half a Life, the strange and chilling novel that V.S. Naipaul published in 2001 – thirty years or so after he first pronounced the novel a dying form. The story begins in the 1930s, in a South Indian princely state, where Willie’s father embarks on a half-hearted and dubious rebellion against the ...

Short Cuts

Deborah Friedell: First Impressions, 16 August 2007

... them. Or last year, when the Sunday Times sent 20 literary agents chapters from old novels by V.S. Naipaul and Stanley Middleton. Cue outrage, embarrassment, ‘we receive 50 manuscripts a day – we do our best.’ Are publishers less perspicacious than they used to be? The first time a version of Pride and Prejudice, called ‘First Impressions’, was ...


C.K. Stead: New Zealand Writers, 21 November 1991

... perhaps – but in what degree ‘post’? I belonged to one of what I think V.S. Naipaul has called the client cultures. In my last year at school I discovered Allen Curnow’s poetry and his 1945 anthology, A Book of New Zealand Verse, which historians often use as a marker in the establishment of a distinct and self-reliant New Zealand ...


Paul Theroux: Out of Sir Vidia’s Shadow, 24 February 2022

... work in hospitals, to keep the spark of my medical ambition alight.In Kampala, in 1966, I met V.S. Naipaul, and my view of myself as a writer changed. Over the years, I have written extensively about Naipaul. I wrote a profile of him for the Telegraph magazine in 1972. In the same year I published a book of ...

Inspector of the Sad Parade

Nicholas Spice, 4 August 1994

A Way in the World 
by V.S. Naipaul.
Heinemann, 369 pp., £14.99, May 1994, 0 434 51029 7
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... The Gulf of Paria, Naipaul’s mediterrnanean, lies between the coast of Venezuela and the island of Trinidad. The water is almost encircled by land, with only two outlets to the wider ocean. Here, on the Venezuelan side, close to the mouth of the Orinoco, the Destiny lay at anchor, while on board Raleigh watched for the outcome of his last doomed expedition to discover El Dorado ...

Tell me what you talked

James Wood: V.S. Naipaul, 11 November 1999

Letters between a Father and Son 
by V.S. Naipaul.
Little, Brown, 333 pp., £18.50, October 1999, 0 316 63988 5
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... lack about themselves, then we ourselves have become that lack, have become a part of them. V.S. Naipaul’s Mr Biswas belongs to this company. Generous, combustible, nobly hysterical, facetious when he would like to be solemn, stoical in resolve but crumbling in practice, free in spirit but actually tied to the train of his destiny by the modesty of his ...


Karl Miller, 5 February 1987

Another Day of Life 
by Ryszard Kapuściński.
Picador, 136 pp., £8.95, February 1987, 0 330 29844 5
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... what it was like to be there, and to be writing it down. An arch-priest of these mysteries is V.S. Naipaul, whose foreign countries figure as areas of darkness, where coups and crises are glimpsed but may remain inscrutable. Another is Ryszard Kapuściński, an expert in what his new book calls ‘confusion’, who has attended 27 revolutions in the Third ...

Answering back

James Campbell, 11 July 1991

The Intended 
by David Dabydeen.
Secker, 246 pp., £13.99, February 1991, 0 436 20007 4
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by Caryl Phillips.
Bloomsbury, 185 pp., £13.99, March 1991, 0 7475 0886 0
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by Jamaica Kincaid.
Cape, 176 pp., £11.99, April 1991, 0 224 03055 8
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... in the 1950s. Novelists such as George Lamming, Samuel Selvon, John Hearne, Andrew Salkey and V.S. Naipaul were among the first voices from the outposts of Empire to talk back. Not for them ‘clapping his hands and stamping his feet’ in order to communicate, like Conrad’s fireman (‘and he had filed teeth, too’). This black man was articulate and ...


C.K. Stead: Truth and autobiographies, 27 April 2000

... I was reading Sir Vidia’s Shadow, Paul Theroux’s book about his 30-year friendship with V.S. Naipaul.2 I don’t think my reaction was unusual. Parts of the negative picture of Naipaul were convincing, but there are obvious inventions and contrivances, especially in the dialogue – in some chapters glaringly ...

Version of Pastoral

Christopher Ricks, 2 April 1987

The Enigma of Arrival: A Novel in Five Sections 
by V.S. Naipaul.
Viking, 318 pp., £10.95, March 1987, 0 670 81576 4
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... The Enigma of Arrival: V.S. Naipaul’s title is the one at which Apollinaire enigmatically arrived, for the painting by Giorgio de Chirico. A detail of it illuminates Naipaul’s cover and his book: making their huddled way from a classical quayside (the scene bathed both in shadow and in sun), two stoled figures have their obscured faces towards us and their backs to a wall ...

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