A Writer's People
Ways of Looking and Feeling
By V.S. Naipaul
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780375407383, 208pp.)
Publication Date: April 29, 2008
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Born in Trinidad of Indian descent, a resident of England for his entire adult life, and a prodigious traveler, Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul has always faced the challenges of “fitting one civilisation to another.” Here, in his first book of nonfiction since 2003, he gives us an eloquent, candid, wide-ranging narrative that delves into this sometimes inadvertent process of creative and intellectual assimilation.
He discusses the writers he read early on: Derek Walcott, Gustave Flaubert and his own father among them. He explains how Anthony Powell and Francis Wyndham influenced his first encounters with literary culture. He looks at what we have retained—and forgotten—of the world portrayed in Caesar’s The Gallic War and Virgil’s Aeneid. He illuminates the ways in which the writings of Gandhi, Nehru and other Indian writers both reveal and conceal the authors and their nation. And he brings the same scrutiny to bear on his own life: his years in Trinidad; the gaps in his family history; the “private India” kept alive in his family through story, ritual, religion and culture; his ever-evolving reaction to the more complicated and demanding true India he would encounter for the first time when he was thirty.
Part meditation, part remembrance, as elegant as it is revelatory, A Writer’s People allows us privileged insight—full of incident, humor and feeling—into the mind of one of our greatest writers.
V. S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad in 1932. He went to England on a scholarship in 1950. After four years at University College, Oxford, he began to write, and since then has followed no other profession. He has published more than twenty-five books of fiction and nonfiction, including Half a Life, A House for Mr. Biswas, A Bend in the River, Magic Seeds and a collection of letters, Between Father and Son. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001.