In this account of his journeys through Asia, "the believers" are the Muslims Naipaul met on these jouneys. He shows young people battling to regain the original purity of their faith, and offers an insight into modern Islam and the comforting simplifications of religious fanaticism.
The theme is displacement, the yearning for the good place in someone elses land, the attendant heartache. In A Free State tells first of an Indian servant in Washington, then of an Asian West Indian in London who is in jail for murder. Then the story moves to Africa, to a fictional country something like Uganda or Rwanda. Its two main characters are English. They once found Africa liberating, but now it has gone sour on them. At a time of tribal conflict they have to make the long drive to the safety of their compound. In the background, the threat of violence looms. The voices in this novel are breathtakingly vivid, while the characters are portrayed with an intelligence and sensitivity that is rarely seen in contemporary writing. Dennis Potter, in The Times, described the book as one of such lucid complexity and such genuine insight, so deft and deep, that it somehow manages to agitate, charm, amuse and excuse the reader all at the same pitch of experience. This is one of V. S. Naipauls greatest novels, hard but full of pity.
Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul's magnificent Magic Seeds continues the story of Willie Chandran, the perennially dissatisfied and self-destructively naive protagonist of his bestselling Half a Life.
Having left a wife and a livelihood in Africa, Willie is persuaded to return to his native India to join an underground movement on behalf of its oppressed lower castes. Instead he finds himself in the company of dilettantes and psychopaths, relentlessly hunted by police and spurned by the people he means to liberate. But this is only one stop in a quest for authenticity that takes in all the fanaticism and folly of the postmodern era. Moving with dreamlike swiftness from guerrilla encampment to prison cell, from the squalor of rural India to the glut and moral desolation of 1980s London, Magic Seeds is a novel of oracular power, dazzling in its economy and unblinking in its observations.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Spanning four decades and four continents, this magisterial volume brings together the essential shorter works of reflection and reportage by our most sensitive, literate, and undeceivable observer of the post-colonial world. In its pages V. S. Naipaul trains his relentless moral intelligence on societies from India to the United States and sees how each deals with the challenges of modernity and the seductions of both the real and mythical past.
Whether he is writing about a string of racial murders in Trinidad; the mad, corrupt reign of Mobutu in Zaire; Argentina under the generals; or Dallas during the 1984 Republican Convention, Naipaul combines intellectual playfulness with sorrow, indignation, and analysis so far-reaching that it approaches prophecy. The Writer and the World reminds us that he is in a class by himself.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
A moving and beautiful novel of the transformation of rural England.Taking its title from the strangely frozen picture by surrealist painter Giorgio de Chirico, THE ENIGMA OF ARRIVAL is the story of a young Indian from the Crown Colony of Trinidad who arrives in post-imperial England and consciously, over many years, finds himself as a writer.As he does so, he also observes the gradual but profound and permanent changes wrought on the English landscape by the march of "progress", as an old world is lost to the relentless drift of people and things over the face of the earth. But while this is a novel of dignity, compassion and candour it is also, perhaps surprisingly, a work of celebration.'A wonderful book... a magical book' Jan Morris, Independent
V. S. Naipaul's first book about the United States is a revealing, disturbing, elegiac book about the hidden life and culture of the American South -- from Atlanta to Charleston, Tallahassee to Tuskegee, Nashville to Chapel Hill.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
In his long-awaited, vastly innovative new novel, Naipaul, "one of literature's great travelers" (Los Angles Times), spans continents and centuries to create what is at once an autobiography and a fictional archaeology of colonialism. "Dickensian . . . a brilliant new prism through which to view (Naipaul's) life and work."--New York Times.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
'Brilliant and terrifying' Observer I had to be the man who was doing well and more than well, the man whose drab shop concealed some bigger operation that made millions. I had to be the man who had planned it all, who had come to the destroyed town at the bend in the river because he had foreseen the rich future. 'Salim, the narrator, is a young man from an Indian family of traders long resident on the coast of Centeral Africa. Salim has left the coast to make his way in the interior, there to take on a small trading shop of this and that, sudries, sold to the natives. The place is "a bend in the river"; it is Africa. The time is post-colonial, the time of Independence. The Europeans have withdrawn or been forced to withdraw and the scene is one of chaos, violent change, warring tribes, ignorance, isolation, poverty and a lack of prepartion for the modern world they have entered, or partially assumed as a sort of decoration. It is a story of historical upheaval and social breakdown. Naipaul has fashioned a work of intense imaginative force. It is a haunting creation, rich with incident and human bafflement, played out in an immense detail of landscape rendered with a poignant brilliance.' Elizabeth Hardwick 'Always a master of fictional landscape, Naipaul here shows, in his variety of human examples and in his search for underlying social causes, a Tolstoyan spirit' John Updike
A Tolstoyan spirit . . . The so-called Third World has produced no more brilliant literary artist John Updike, New Yorker Born of Indian heritage, raised in the British-dependent Caribbean island of Isabella, and educated in England, forty-year-old Ralph Singh has spent a lifetime struggling against the torment of cultural displacement. Now in exile from his native country, he has taken up residence at a quaint hotel in a London suburb, where he is writing his memoirs in an attempt to impose order on a chaotic existence. His memories lead him to recognize the cultural paradoxes and tainted fantasies of his colonial childhood and later life: his attempts to fit in at school, his short-lived marriage to an ostentatious white woman. But it is the return of Isabella and his subsequent immersion in the roiling political atmosphere of a newly self-governing nation every kind of racial fantasy taking wing that ultimately provide Singh with the necessary insight to discover the crux of his disillusionment. Ambitious and successful . . . Extremely perceptive The Times
At the centre of this extraordinary historical narrative are two linked themes: the grinding down of the aborigines during the long rivalries of the quest for El Dorado, the mythical kingdom of gold; and, two hundred years later, the man-made horror of the new slave colony. Naipaul shows how the alchemic delusion of El Dorado drew the small island of Trinidad into the vortex of world events, making it the object of Spanish and English colonial designs and a Mecca for treasure-seekers, slave-traders, and revolutionaries. And through an accumulation of casual, awful detail, he takes us as close as we can get to day-to-day life in the Caribbean slave plantations at the time thought to be more brutal than their American equivalents. In this brilliantly researched book, living characters large and small are rescued from the records and set in a larger, guiding narrative about the New World, empire, African slavery, revolution which is never less than gripping. History as literature, meticulously researched and masterfully written New York Times Book Review A formidable achievement. . . . No historian has attempted to weave together in so subtle a manner the threads of the most complex and turbulent period of Caribbean history Times Literary Supplement Brilliant. . . . Startling New Statesman A remarkable book. . . . Intelligent, humane, brilliantly written Book World
Over the course of his astonishing fifty-year career, V.S. Naipauls writing has been characterized by a commitment to truth that gives his work a unique luminosity and brilliance. In A Writers People he brings unmatched clarity and rich experience to an exploration of the ways we think, see and feel. The range of this extraordinary book reflects an intellect deeply engaged with the challenges of assimilation faced by the serious traveller, one for whom there can be no single world view. Naipaul writes about the classical world what we have retained from it, what we have forgotten and the more recent past. Figures as diverse as Mahatma Gandhi, Derek Walcott and Gustave Flaubert come under his compassionate scrutiny, as do his own early years in Trinidad, the silences in his family history and the roles played by Anthony Powell and Francis Wyndham in his first encounters with literary culture. Part meditation, part remembrance, as elegant as it is revelatory, A Writers People is a privileged insight, full of gentleness, humour and feeling, into the mind of one of our greatest writers.
In 1950, V. S. Naipaul travelled from Trinidad to England to take up a place at Oxford University. Over the next few years, letters passed back and forth between Naipaul and his family particularly his beloved father Seepersad, but also his mother and siblings. The result is a fascinating chronicle of Naipauls time at university; the love of writing that he shared with his father and their mutual nurturing of literary ambition; the triumphs and depressions of Oxford life; and the travails of his family back at home. This engrossing collection continues into the early years of V. S. Naipauls literary career, touching time and again on the craft of writing, and revealing the relationships and experiences that formed and influenced one of the greatest and most enigmatic literary figures of our age. Rare and precious . . . if any modern writer was going to breathe a last gasp into the epistolary tradition, it was always likely to be V. S. Naipaul New Statesman Remarkable Literary Review A very moving book James Wood, London Review of Books A fascinating psychological narrative The Times
In a Free State deals in displacement. It tells first of an Indian servant in Washington, then of an Asian West Indian in London who is in jail for murder. Then the story moves to Africa, to a fictional country something like Uganda or Rwanda. The two main characters are English. They once found Africa liberating, but now it has gone sour on them. At a time of tribal conflict they have to make the long drive to the safety of their compound. In the background, the threat of violence looms.The voices in this novel are breathtakingly vivid, while the characters are portrayed with an intelligence and sensitivity that is rarely seen in contemporary writing. Dennis Potter described the book as one 'of such lucid complexity and such genuine insight, so deft and deep, that it somehow manages to agitate, charm, amuse and excuse the reader all at the same pitch of experience'. This is one of V.S. Naipaul's greatest novels, hard but full of pity.
In 1964 V.S. Naipaul published An Area of Darkness, his semi-autobiographical account of a year in India. Two visits later, prompted by the Emergency of 1975, he came to write India: A Wounded Civilization, in which he casts a more analytical eye over Indian attitudes. In this work, he recapitulates and further investigates the feelings that the vast, mysterious and agonised continent has previously aroused in him. What he sees and what he hears - evoked so superbly and vividly in this book - only reinforce in him his conviction that India, wounded by a thousand years of foreign rule, has not yet found an ideology of regeneration. 'A devastating work' The Times 'Brilliant' Spectator
AN AREA OF DARKNESS is V.S. Naipaul's semi-autobiographical account - at once painful and hilarious, always concerned - of his first visit to India, the land of his forbears. From the moment of his inauspicious arrival in Prohibition-dry Bombay, bearing whisky and cheap brandy, he began to experience a sense of cultural estrangement from the subcontinent. It became for him a land of myths, an area of darkness closing up behind him as he travelled . . . The experience was not a pleasant one, but the pain the author suffered was creative rather than numbing, and engendered a masterful work of literature that is by turns tender, lyrical, explosive and cruel. With spectacular narrative skill, Naipaul provides a revelation both of India and of himself: a displaced person who paradoxically possesses a stronger sense of place than almost anyone. 'A masterpiece of travel-writing' Paul Theroux 'Brilliant' Observer
Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul brings his signature gifts of observation, his ferocious impatience with received truths, and his masterfully condensed prose to these eleven essays on reading, writing, and identityyes'>#8212;which have been brought together for the first time.Here the subject is Naipaulyes'>#8217;s literary evolution: the books that delighted him as a child; the books he wrote as a young man; the omnipresent predicament of trying to master an essentially metropolitan, imperial art form as an Asian colonial from a New World plantation island. He assesses Joseph Conrad, the writer most frequently cited as his forebear, and, in his celebrated Nobel Lecture, yes'>#8220;Two Worlds,yes'>#8221; traces the full arc of his own career. Literary Occasions is an indispensable addition to the Naipaul oeuvre, penetrating, elegant, and affecting.From the Trade Paperback edition.
Willie Chandran's father stood at odds with the world - aspiring to greatness while living the dreary life marked out for him by his ancestors. Willie is drawn to England, its dingy West End clubs and sexual encounters. But it is his first experience of love that may bring him the fulfillment he so desperately seeks.
THE THIRD BOOK IN V.S. NAIPAULS ACCLAIMED INDIAN TRILOGY Much has changed since V.S. Naipauls first trip to India and this fascinating account of his return journey focuses on Indias development since independence. Taking an anti-clockwise journey around the metropolises of India including Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, and Delhi Naipaul offers a kaleidoscopic, layered travelogue, encompassing a wide collage of religions, castes, and classes at a time when the percolating ideas of freedom threatened to shake loose the old ways. The brilliance of the book lies in Naipauls decision to approach this shifting, changing land from a variety of perspectives: the author humbly recedes, allowing the Indians to tell the stories of their own lives, and a dynamic oral history of India emerges before our eyes. India: A Million Mutinies Now is a truly perceptive work whose insights continue to inform travellers of all generations to India. Brilliantly enjoyable . . . Everybody should read him Sunday Telegraph Literally the last word on India . . . a truthfuness and a subtlety that are a joy to read Paul Theroux Indispensable for anyone who wants seriously to come to grips with the experience of India New York Times Book Review
Pour l'étranger qui passe en voiture, Miguel Street n'est que l'image sordide de l'un des innombrables quartiers miséreux de Port of Spain, île de la Trinité, entre les années 1939 et 1947.
Mais pour ceux qui y vivent, c'est un monde plein de ressources, brillant, coloré, unique ; un univers où toutes les excentricités sont possibles. L'étrangeté des personnages, leur tristesse, leur folie, leurs comportements comiques, leurs mésaventures, tout ceci nous est conté avec humour, et partout transparaît une étrange bonhomie qui mous fait apprécier les faits divers de Miguel Street.
Moving beyond travelogue, The Masque of Africa considers the effects of belief (in indigenous animisms, the foreign religions of Christianity and Islam, the cults of leaders and mythical history) upon the progress of African civilization. Beginning in Uganda, at the centre of the continent, Naipauls journey takes in Ghana and Nigeria, the Ivory Coast and Gabon, and ends, as the country does, in South Africa. Focusing upon the theme of belief though sometimes the political or economical realities are so overwhelming that they have to be taken into account Naipaul examines the fragile but enduring quality of the old world of magic. To witness the ubiquity of such ancient ritual, to be given some idea of its power, was to be taken far back to the beginning of things. To reach that beginning was the purpose of this book. Compelling, insightful, often sombrely beautiful Sunday Telegraph Naipaul travels, he asks, he listens attentively and, above all else, he notices, often seeing what others do not or cannot. That acute gift has never left him . . . he is sustained by the old ideal of unadorned truth-telling New Statesman Beautiful and humane Harpers
In 1960 the government of Trinidad invited V. S. Naipaul to revisit his native country and record his impressions. In this classic of modern travel writing he has created a deft and remarkably prescient portrait of Trinidad and four adjacent Caribbean societies-countries haunted by the legacies of slavery and colonialism and so thoroughly defined by the norms of Empire that they can scarcely believe that the Empire is ending.
In The Middle Passage, Naipaul watches a Trinidadian movie audience greeting Humphrey Bogart's appearance with cries of "That is man!" He ventures into a Trinidad slum so insalubrious that the locals call it the Gaza Strip. He follows a racially charged election campaign in British Guiana (now Guyana) and marvels at the Gallic pretension of Martinique society, which maintains the fiction that its roads are extensions of France's routes nationales. And throughout he relates the ghastly episodes of the region's colonial past and shows how they continue to inform its language, politics, and values. The result is a work of novelistic vividness and dazzling perspicacity that displays Naipaul at the peak of his powers.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
In this slyly funny and lavishly inventive novel-his first-V. S. Naipaul traces the unlikely career of Ganesh Ramsumair, a failed schoolteacher and impecunious village masseur who in time becomes a revered mystic, a thriving entrepreneur, and the most beloved politician in Trinidad. To understand a little better, one has to realize that in the 1940s masseurs were the island's medical practitioners of choice. As one character observes, "I know the sort of doctors they have in Trinidad. They think nothing of killing two, three people before breakfast." Ganesh's ascent is variously aided and impeded by a Dickensian cast of rogues and eccentrics. There's his skeptical wife, Leela, whose schooling has made her excessively, fond. of; punctuation: marks!; and Leela's father, Ramlogan, a man of startling mood changes and an ever-ready cutlass. There's the aunt known as The Great Belcher. There are patients pursued by malign clouds or afflicted with an amorous fascination with bicycles. Witty, tender, filled with the sights, sounds, and smells of Trinidad's dusty Indian villages, The Mystic Masseur is Naipaul at his most expansive and evocative.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
V.S. Naipauls legendary command of broad comedy and acute social observation is on abundant display in these classic works of fiction two novels and a collection of stories. The Suffrage of Elvira is Naipauls hilarious take on an electoral campaign in the back country of Trinidad, where the candidates tactics include blatant vote-buying and supernatural sabotage. The eponymous protagonist of Mr Stone and the Knights Companion is an ageing Englishman of ponderously regular habits whose life is thrown into upheaval by a sudden marriage and an unanticipated professional advancement. And the stories in A Flag on the Island take us from a Chinese bakery in Trinidad to a rooming house in London. Unfailingly stylish, filled with intelligence and feeling, here is the work of a writer who can do just about anything that can be done with language.