the enigma of naipaul


The Enigma of Arrival is a work of extraordinary originality and achievement that not only wears down the reader’s resistance (groaning initially at how so much traveloguing impressionism can be served up as art), but which ultimately contains such gravity and truth that it illuminates and moves the reader so much that he or she is likely to think ever after that any objection that can be brought to its author, on the grounds of his personality or his prejudices, his incidental vices or frailties, is like the trivia of scholars who take a dim moral view of Shakespeare because of the supposed niggardliness of his business transactions.

And, yes, it is a documentary novel, if it can be described as a novel at all, set by and large in the English countryside where the author (ostensibly identical with his biographical self) is apparently adjusting to the rigours of middle age. Having made the arduous, uncertain journey from Trinidad to Oxford more than 30 years earlier, he finds himself at home in Britain, renting a cottage on the estate of some landed gent.

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