Nobel laureate ‘overwhelmed’ at public event to celebrate A House for Mr Biswas: The Guardian
Will he or won’t he? The question that has hung over the lead-up up to the eighth Jaipur literature festival was answered on its opening day when a frail VS Naipaul was wheeled on to the open air stage for his first public reunion in 19 years with Paul Theroux.
Festival directors William Dalrymple and Namita Gokhale set the scene by programming a celebration of Naipaul’s name-making 1961 novel, A House for Mr Biswas. It was, said Theroux, “the foundation of Naipaul’s genius” – a novel without precedent, about a little man from Trinidad with big dreams. He recalled discovering it in 1966. “It’s one of the finest books I’ve ever read. I used to go home every night and read five to 10 pages.”
Precisely what sort of genius it displayed was a matter for spirited discussion among the four panellists at the event, with Farrukh Dhondy describing it as Dickensian, while Hanif Kureishi praised its Chekhovian qualities and Amit Chaudhuri said it was really a modernist masterpiece.