I was eleven, no more, when the wish came to me to be a writer; and then very soon it was a settled ambition. But for the young V. S. Naipaul, there was a great distance between the wish and its fulfillment. To become a writer, he would have to find ways of understanding three very different cultures: his family's half-remembered Indian homeland, the West Indian colonial society in which he grew up, and the wholly foreign world of the English novels he read. In this essay of literary autobiography, V. S. Naipaul sifts through memories of his childhood in Trinidad, his university days in England, and his earliest attempts at writing, seeking the experiences of life and reading that shaped his imagination and his growth as a writer. He pays particular attention to the traumas of India under its various conquerors and the painful sense of dereliction and loss that shadows writers' attempts to capture the country and its people in prose.
Naipaul's profound reflections on the relations between personal or historical experience and literary form, between the novel and the world, reveal how he came to discover both his voice and the subjects of his writing, and how he learned to turn sometimes to fiction, sometimes to the travel narrative, to portray them truthfully. Along the way he offers insights into the novel's prodigious development as a form for depicting and interpreting society in the nineteenth century and its diminishing capacity to do the same in the twentieth-a task that, in his view, passed to the creative energies of the early cinema.
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(210mm x 145mm x 11mm)
Publisher: The New York Review of Books, Inc
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UK Kirkus Review »
'I didn't have to be taught it: the story of Rama's unjust banishment to the dangerous forest was like something I had always known. It lay below the writing I was to get to know later in the city, the Anderson and Aesop I was to read on my own, and the things my father was to read to me'. In this slim handsome volume, V S Naipaul discusses the business of writing in frank but profound terms. He reflects on how his idea of being a writer evolved, how the idea existed before the need or material had arrived: 'a private idea, and a curiously ennobling one, seperate from school and seperate from the disordered and disintegrating life of our Hindu extended family.' Naipaul makes plain that it is happenstance that shapes a writer, not a writing course. For him the volatile elements were his articulate father, the epic poem Ramayana, the literary whims of his schoolteacher Mr Worm, and the British Empire that 'sent us the Everyman's Library and Penguin Books and the Collins Classics'. For better or worse, together they gave him his 'private anthology of literature'. Ultimately, however, 'what is good forgets whatever models it might have had, and is unexpected; we have to catch it on the wing'. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - V. S. Naipaul
V. S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad in 1932 and emigrated to England in 1950, when he won a scholarship to University College, Oxford. He is the author of many novels, including A House for Mr. Biswas, A Bend in the River, and In a Free State, which won the Booker Prize. He has also written several nonfiction works based on his travels, including India: A Million Mutinies Now and Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples. He was knighted in 1990 and in 1993 was the first recipient of the David Cohen British Literature Prize.