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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 books of fiction and non-fiction, including Half a Life, A House for Mr Biswas, A Bend in the River and most recently The Masque of Africa, and a collection of correspondence, Letters Between a Father and Son. In 2001 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
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, Naipaul's 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.
Post-colonial Africa is dissected with pitiless lucidity in this disturbing novel about an outsider, the young Indian trader, Salim, who has moved from the coastal settlement where he grew up to an unnamed country in the African interior (largely based on the Democratic Republic of Congo), settling on that very bend in the river where Conrad had set his Heart of Darkness some seventy years before. Salim enters a ghost town, once a flourishing European outpost, which is fast returning to the bush. A new dictator 'the Big Man' is about to impose his regime with the assistance of Raymond, 'The Big Man's White Man', whose humanitarian concerns have won him international acclaim, but whose plans for the country's future are arrogant and delusional. Salim becomes obsessed by Raymond's wife, Yvette, and begins and affair with her. Personal and political tragedy follow, civil war returns, and Salim, contemplating the disastrous course of his life since leaving home, speaks for the powerlessness of ordinary people everywhere in the face of historical upheaval: 'I couldn't protect anyone [and] no one could protect me... we could only in various ways hide from the truth... One tide of history has brought us here ... Another tide of history was coming to wash us away.'.
'Compelling, insightful, often sombrely beautiful' Sunday Telegraph Moving beyond travelogue, V. S. Naipaul's 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, Naipaul's 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.
"e;A stranger could drive through Miguel Street and just say 'Slum!' because he could see no more."e; But to its residents this derelict corner of Trinidad's capital is a complete world, where everybody is quite different from everybody else. There's Popo the carpenter, who neglects his livelihood to build "e;the thing without a name."e; There's Man-man, who goes from running for public office to staging his own crucifixion, and the dreaded Big Foot, the bully with glass tear ducts. There's the lovely Mrs. Hereira, in thrall to her monstrous husband. In this tender, funny early novel, V. S. Naipaul renders their lives (and the legends their neighbors construct around them) with Dickensian verve and Chekhovian compassion.Set during World War II and narrated by an unnamed-but precociously observant-neighborhood boy, Miguel Street is a work of mercurial mood shifts, by turns sweetly melancholy and anarchically funny. It overflows with life on every page.
The story of a writer's singular journey-from one place to another, from the British colony of Trinidad to the ancient countryside of England, and from one state of mind to another-this is perhaps Naipaul's most autobiographical work. Yet it is also woven through with remarkable invention to make it a rich and complex novel.
No writer has rendered our boundaryless, postcolonial world more acutely or prophetically than V. S. Naipaul, or given its upheavals such a hauntingly human face. A perfect case in point is this riveting novel, a masterful and stylishly rendered narrative of emigration, dislocation, and dread, accompanied by four supporting narratives.On a road trip through Africa, two English people-Bobby, a civil servant with a guilty appetite for African boys; and Linda, a supercilious "e;compound wife"e;-are driving back to their enclave after a stay in the capital. But in between lies the landscape of an unnamed country whose squalor and ethnic bloodletting suggest Idi Amin's Uganda. And the farther Naipaul's protagonists travel into it, the more they find themselves crossing the line that separates privileged outsiders from horrified victims. Alongside this Conradian tour de force are four incisive portraits of men seeking liberation far from home.By turns funny and terrifying, sorrowful and unsparing, In a Free State is Naipaul at his best.
Between 1962 and 2006, V. S. Naipaul wrote six essays about India, some of his finest pieces of reflection and reportage. Approaching India through the residue of Indian culture and the scattered memories of nineteenth-century emigrants, eventually leading to a special understanding of Mahatma Gandhi, Naipaul offers an exceptional and sustained meditation on the country that was never his.These are essays, full of gentleness, humour and feeling, that take us into the mind of a great writer. 'Peerless ... the human encounters are described minutely, superbly ... there is a candour to his writing, a constant precision at its heart' - Sunday Times'Sceptical, enquiring, sharply observant and unfailingly stylish' - Guardian'The coolest literary eye and most lucid prose we have' - New York Times Book Review
With an introduction from Paul Theroux, author of The Great Railway Bazaar. V.S. Naipaul first visited India in 1962 at twenty-nine. He returned in 2015 at eighty-two. The intervening years and visits sparked by an inquisitiveness about a country he had never seen but had been a dream of his since childhood have resulted in three books: India: An Area of Darkness, A Wounded Civilization and A Million Mutinies Now. India is the collection of all three, introduced by fellow traveller and writer Paul Theroux. An Area of Darkness is V. S. Naipaul's semi-autobiographical account - at once painful and hilarious, but always thoughtful and considered - of his first visit to India, the land of his forebears. From the moment of his inauspicious arrival he experienced a cultural estrangement from the subcontinent. India was land of myths, an area of darkness closing up behind him as he travelled. What emerged was a masterful work of literature that provides a revelation both of India and of himself: a displaced person who paradoxically possesses a stronger sense of place than almost anyone. India: A Wounded Civilization casts a more analytical eye than before over Indian attitudes, while recapitulating and further probing the feelings aroused in him by this vast, mysterious, and agonized country. A work of fierce candour and precision, it is also a generous description of one man's complicated relationship with the country of his ancestors. India: A Million Mutinies Now is the fascinating account of Naipaul's return journey to India and 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 Naipaul's approach to a shifting, changing land from a variety of perspectives. India: A Million Mutinies Now is a truly perceptive work whose insights continue to inform travellers of all generations to India.
AN AREA OF DARKNESS'Brilliant ... tender, lyrical, explosive' ObserverV.S. Naipaul was twenty-nine when he first visited India. This is his semi-autobiographical account-at once painful and hilarious, but always thoughtful and considered-a revelation both of the country and of himself.INDIA: A WOUNDED CIVILIZATION'A devastating work, but proof that a novelist of Naipaul's stature can often define problems quicker and more effectively than a team of economists and other experts' The TimesPrompted by the Emergency of 1975, Naipaul casts a more analytical eye, convinced that India, wounded by a thousand years of foreign rule, has not yet found an ideology of regeneration.INDIA: A MILLION MUTINIES NOW'Indispensable for anyone who wants seriously to come to grips with the experience of India' New York Times Book ReviewIt is twenty-six years since Naipaul's first trip to India. Taking an anti-clockwise journey around the metropolises-including Bombay, Madras, Calcutta and Delhi-he focuses on the country's development since Independence. The author recedes, allowing Indians to tell the stories, and a dynamic oral history of the country emerges.
With an introduction by author Teju Cole, A House for Mr Biswas is Nobel Prize in Literature winner V. S. Naipaul's unforgettable masterpiece. Heart-rending and darkly comic, it has been hailed as one of the twentieth century's finest novels, a classic that evokes a man's quest for autonomy against the backdrop of post-colonial Trinidad. He was struck again and again by the wonder of being in his own house, the audacity of it: to walk in through his own front gate, to bar entry to whoever he wished, to close his doors and windows every night. Mr. Biswas has been told since the day of his birth that misfortune will follow him - and so it has. Meaning only to avoid punishment, he causes the death of his father and the dissolution of his family. Wanting simply to flirt with a beautiful woman, he ends up marrying her, and reluctantly relying on her domineering family for support. But in spite of endless setbacks, Mr. Biswas is determined to achieve independence, and so he begins his gruelling struggle to buy a home of his own.
With a preface by the author. V. S. Naipaul's The Mimic Men is a profound, moving and often humorous novel that evokes a colonial man's experience in the post-colonial world. 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 to 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. `A Tolstoyan spirit . . . The so-called Third World has produced no more brilliant literary artist' John Updike, New Yorker
With a preface by the author. V. S. Naipaul's 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 - that capture the rhythms of life in the Caribbean and England with impressive subtlety and humour. The Suffrage of Elvira is Naipaul's 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 - whose black proprietor faces bankruptcy until he takes a Chinese name - to a rooming house in London, where the genteel landlady plays a nasty Darwinian game with her budgerigars. Unfailingly stylish, filled with intelligence and feeling, The Nightwatchman's Occurrence Book is the work of a writer who can do just about anything that can be done with language. `V. S. Naipaul has a substantial claim as a comic writer . . . This humour, conducted throughout with the utmost stylistic quietude, is completely original' Kingsley Amis, Spectator
The central novel from V.S. Naipaul's Booker Prize-winning narrative of displacement, published for the first time in a stand-alone edition. `In a Free State was conceived in 1969 as a sequence about displacement. There was to be a central novel, set in Africa, with shorter surrounding matter from other places. The shorter pieces from these varied places were intended to throw a universal light on the African material. But then, as the years passed and the world changed, and I felt myself less of an oddity as a writer, I grew to feel that the central novel was muffled and diminished by the surrounding material and I began to think that the novel should be published on its own. This is what, many years after its first publication, my publisher is doing in this edition.' - V. S. Naipaul. In a Free State is set in Africa, in a place like Uganda or Rwanda, and its two main characters are English. They had once found liberation in Africa. But now Africa is going sour on them. The land is no longer safe, and at a time of tribal conflict they have to make a long drive to the safety of their compound. At the end of this drive - the narrative tight, wonderfully constructed, the formal and precise language always instilled with violence and rage - we know everything about the English characters, the African country, and the Idi Amin-like future awaiting it.
Miguel Street, V. S. Naipaul's first written work of fiction, is set in a derelict corner of Port of Spain, Trinidad, during World War Two and is narrated by an unnamed, precociously observant neighbourhood boy. We are introduced to a galaxy of characters, from Popo the carpenter, who neglects his livelihood to build `the wild thing without a name', to Man-man, who goes from running for public office to staging his own crucifixion, and the dreaded Big-Foot, the bully with glass tear ducts. As well as the lovely Mrs Hereira, in thrall to her monstrous husband. V. S. Naipaul writes with prescient wisdom and crackling wit about the lives and legends that make up Miguel Street: a living theatre, a world in microcosm, a cacophony of sights, sounds and smells - all seen through the eyes of a fatherless boy. The language, the idioms and the observations are priceless and timeless and Miguel Street overflows with life on every page. This is an astonishing novel about hope, despair, poverty and laughter; and an enchanting and exuberant tribute to V. S. Naipaul's childhood home.
Set on a troubled Caribbean island - where Asians, Africans, Americans and former British colonials co-exist in a state of suppressed hysteria - V. S. Naipaul's Guerrillas is a novel of colonialism and revolution. A white man arrives with his mistress, an Englishwoman influenced by fantasies of native power and sexuality, unaware of the consequences of her actions. Together with a leader of the `revolution', they act out a gripping drama of death, sexual violence and spiritual impotence. Guerrillas depicts a convulsion in public life, and ends in private violence. The novel comes with extraordinary force from the centre of a profound moral awareness of the world's plight. `Impeccable . . . Guerrillas seems to me Naipaul's Heart of Darkness: a brilliant artist's anatomy of emptiness, and of despair' Observer