A Writer's People
Ways of Looking and Feeling
By V.S. Naipaul
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780375707292, 208pp.)
Publication Date: May 5, 2009
V. S. Naipaul has always faced the challenges of "fitting one civilization to another." In A Writer's People, he takes us into this process of creative and intellectual assimilation, which has shaped both his writing and his life.
Naipaul discusses the writers to whom he was exposed early on—Derek Walcott, Gustave Flaubert, and his father, among them—and his first encounters with literary culture. He illuminates the ways in which the writings of Gandhi, Nehru, and other Indian writers both reveal and conceal the authors themselves and their nation. And he brings the same scrutiny to bear on his own life: his early years in Trinidad; the empty spaces in his family history; his ever-evolving reactions to the more complicated India he would encounter for the first time at age thirty.
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 he has followed no other profession. He has published more than twenty books of fiction and nonfiction, including A House for Mr. Biswas, A Bend in the River, and A Turn in the South, and a collection of letters, Between Father and Son. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001.
“Bracing, surprising.... A meditation on art and life.”—The New York Review of Books“True to Naipaul’s ability to engender the provocative out of the provoking.... A visionary vantage over the wider human condition.”—The Boston Globe“Looking hard at cruelty, taking nothing for granted, are the hallmarks of Naipaul's stance. His writing gleams with brilliance . . . It's impossible not to admire the prose.”—The Seattle Times“A bracing, erudite ride . . . Wonderfully written . . . One may question Naipaul’s premise, but it in no way negates that he is a very great writer . . . What remains impressive is Naipaul’s sense of wonder at the worlds he has discovered.”—New York Times Book Review“Rich with surprise and erudition, informed by an alchemist’s imagination . . . Naipaul explores [ways of looking] sometimes through the experiences of the notable (Gandhi), sometimes through the eyes of the nearly anonymous (an upholsterer), sometimes through those tiny moments of immense significance that have long been a feature of Naipaul’s work.”—Kirkus ReviewsPraise from the UK:“This is an important coda, on a lifetime of ‘seeing’ . . . For Naipaul, ‘seeing’ with clarity is all-important to both constantly remaking the world through literature and to fashioning a history for oneself . . . Brilliant.”—Amit Chaudhuri, The Guardian“Naipaul’s latest collection of essays, A Writer’s People, is essential reading for those who admire his work and want to understand it further. But there is much there for any enquiring mind, as it offers the insights and observations on literature, history and cultural sensibility of an honest and truly global thinker.”—The Evening Standard“Many sides of the complicated Naipaul personality are on show as he sets them out . . . Naipaul is at his best here when teasing out the ironies and complexities of cultural exchange in the persons of figures with whom he can identify.”—Sunday Telegraph“It is Naipaul’s ‘way of looking and feeling’ that has made his work so controversial . . . But this is a brilliant work from a man who more than anybody else embodies what it means to be a writer . . . As it turns out, Naipaul’s reading has been as wide and deep as his peregrinations through the decolonised world . . . As ever, his sentences are tightly coiled and muscular; they embody the very qualities they praise . . . Revelatory.”—The Observer