The Irascible Prophet: V. S. Naipaul at Home

From The New York Times:Naipaul_1

Two monuments rise like emblems from the green countryside of Wiltshire, England, not far from the secluded house of V. S. Naipaul: Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral. They are signposts in a landscape Naipaul has been traversing for more than half a century, one in which the impulses of culture, civilization and progress have always existed in close and uneasy proximity to the impulses of paganism, religion and disorder.

A prophet of our world-historical moment, in his more than 25 works of fiction and nonfiction, Naipaul has examined the clash between belief and unbelief, the unraveling of the British Empire, the migrations of peoples. They are natural subjects for a writer who, as he has recorded in his many fully, semi- and quasi-autobiographical books, was born in Trinidad, where his grandfather had emigrated from India as an indentured servant. His father, a newspaper reporter and aspiring fiction writer, was the model for what is arguably Naipaul’s finest novel, ”A House for Mr. Biswas” (1961). At 18, Naipaul left Trinidad on a scholarship to University College, Oxford, and has lived in England ever since. Alfred Kazin once described him as ”a colonial brought up in English schools, on English ways and the pretended reasonableness of the English mind.”

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