A Writer's People: Book summary and reviews of A Writer's People by V.S. Naipaul

A Writer's People

Ways of Looking and Feeling

By V.S. Naipaul

A Writer's People
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2008,
    208 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Rich with surprises and erudition, informed by an alchemist's imagination." - Kirkus Reviews.

"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." – The Guardian (UK).

"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 (UK).

"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 (UK).

"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 (UK).

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Author Information

V.S. Naipaul Author Biography

V.S. Naipaul (Vidiadhar Surajprasad) was born in Chaguanas, Trinidad, on 17 August 1932, the eldest son of a second-generation Indian. He was educated at Queen's Royal College, Trinidad, and, after winning a government scholarship, in England at University College, Oxford. He worked briefly for the BBC as a writer and editor for the 'Caribbean Voices' programme.

His first three books are comic portraits of Trinidadian society. The Mystic Masseur (1957) won the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in 1958 and was adapted as a film with a screenplay by Caryl Phillips in 2001. Miguel Street (1959), a collection of short stories, won a Somerset Maugham Award. His acclaimed novel A House for Mr Biswas (1961), is based on his father's life in Trinidad. His first novel ...

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Name Pronunciation
V.S. Naipaul: V S nie-PAWL

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