The World Is What It Is

The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul

By Patrick French
(Vintage, Paperback, 9781400079803, 592pp.)

Publication Date: November 3, 2009

Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover

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Description

The first major biography of V.S. Naipaul, the controversial and enigmatic Nobel laureate: a stunning writer whose only stated ambition was greatness, in pursuit of which goal nothing else was sacred.

Beginning in rich detail in Trinidad, where Naipaul was born into an Indian family, Patrick French skillfully examines Naipaul’s life within a displaced community and his fierce ambition at school. He describes how, on scholarship at Oxford, homesickness and depression struck with great force; the ways in which Naipaul’s first wife helped him to cope and their otherwise fraught marriage; and Naipaul’s struggles throughout subsequent uncertainties in England, including his twenty-five-year-long affair.

Naipaul’s extraordinary gift—producing, uniquely, masterpieces of both fiction and nonfiction—is most of all born of a forceful, visionary impulse, whose roots French traces with a sympathetic brilliance and devastating insight.




About the Author

PATRICK FRENCH was born in England in 1966 and studied literature at Edinburgh University. He is the author of Younghusband, Liberty or Death and Tibet, Tibet, and is a winner of the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, the Royal Society of Literature Heinemann Prize and the Somerset Maugham Award. The World Is What It Is won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Hawthornden Prize.




Praise For The World Is What It Is

A Best Book of the Year
The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Time,
New York Magazine, The Economist, People

“Extraordinary. . . . Thrilling. . . . Full of intimate and moving revelations.”
James Wood, The New Yorker

“Vivid. . . . One of the sprightliest, most gripping, most intellectually curious, [and] funniest biographies of a living writer . . . to come along in years.”
Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“A superb, clear-eyed study, always sympathetic, balanced and thoughtful.”
Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

“Penetrating, wide-ranging, and unflinching.”
The Economist

“Excellent. . . . The great merit of a superb biography, such as this one, is that it can deepen our understanding of the literary character by telling us more about its creator. . . . [French] gets it right.”
Ian Buruma, The New York Review of Books

“Magnificent. . . . Impossible to put down. . . . Fully worthy of its subject, with all the dramatic pacing, the insight and the pathos of a first-rate novel.”
George Packer, The New York Times Book Review

“As haunting and harrowing a psychological document as you could ask for. . . . French pursues his prey with an acuity worthy of the man himself. . . . [He] grippingly develops an account of the writer’s life as cool and undeluded as Naipaul’s former friend Paul Theroux’s was rivetingly emotional.”
Pico Iyer, Time

“Perhaps the most shockingly ‘authorized’ biography in the history of authorized biographies. . . . French handles the incendiary material with novelistic subtlety and grace.”
Sam Anderson, New York Magazine

“Astonishing. . . . It seems I didn’t know half the horrors.”
Paul Theroux, The Sunday Times (London)

“A vivid, and sometimes enthralling, portrait of a deeply enigmatic writer. . . . French is alive to the nuances, quirks and contradictions in Naipaul’s character, and he has an acute sense of his subject’s displacement and rootlessness. . . . [He] navigates difficult emotional territory with a very high degree of compassion, subtlety and authority. . . . A formidable achievement.”
Scott Sherman, The Nation

“Astonishing (and astonishingly authorized). . . . Shrewd and intelligent.”
Christopher Hitchens, The Atlantic

“A prodigious achievement, a wonderful biography, a justification for the art of biography itself.”
A. N. Wilson, Times Literary Supplement (London)

“Harrowing. . . . Frank. . . . Naipaul’s work will inevitably be read differently in light of this biography. . . . A major achievement.”
Floyd Skloot, The Philadelphia Inquirer

“French’s engrossing biography never forgets Naipaul is a great writer. One hopes he will, in due course, go on to complete the life.”
John Sutherland, Financial Times

“Candid. . . . Well-researched and fair-minded. . . . French skews nothing and . . . illuminate[s] aspects of a life full of entanglements and opposing selves.”
Alexander Theroux, Boston Sunday Globe

“A magnificent achievement. . . . But the achievement is partly Naipaul’s. For he did not have to agree to these conditions, or speak to French so openly. He has chosen to submit himself to the truth-telling and ruthless objectivity that have always characterized his own work.”
John Cary, The Sunday Times (London)

“Extraordinary. . . . Authorized but not compromised. . . . The World Is What It Is adds depth and clarity to the discussion of Naipaul’s work. . . . French has met his own rigorous standards and, one feels, Sir Vidia’s as well.”
Allen Barra, Bookforum

“A monument to Naipaul; it is also a disturbing portrait of a fussy, resentful, emotionally ruthless man.”
Matthew Price, The National

“Must be the frankest authorized biography of anyone alive and in possession of their senses.”
Ian Jack, The Guardian (London)

“[French] has written a biography of a living person that is every bit as honest, perceptive, compelling and plain good as if his subject was dead. . . . A masterly performance.”
Allan Massie, Literary Review

“A brilliant biography: exemplary in its thoroughness, sympathetic but tough in tone. . . . French has set down a complex and credible portrait.”
Sebastian Smee, The Spectator

“Extraordinary. . . . The World Is What It Is must have taken nerves of iron to write. Its clarity, honesty, even-handedness, its panoramic range and close emotional focus, above all its virtually unprecedented access to the dark secret life at its heart, make it one of the most gripping biographies I’ve ever read.”
Hilary Spurling, The Observer

“An extraordinary book. If it isn’t the best biography ever written of a living subject, I’d be curious to know what is.”
John Lanchester, New Statesman

“A terrific achievementin effect, an addition to the canon of Naipaul’s own works. . . . French portrays the Trinidad of Naipaul’s childhood brilliantly; he discriminates finely between Naipaul’s books; he deals sharply with the business side of Naipaul’s literary career. The research, documentation and organization of the material are admirable.”
David Sexton, Evening Standard

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