VS Naipaul: The shock of the new


Sir Vidia is attending the Dhaka Lit Fest 2016. The news has taken Dhaka’s literary crowd by storm. This article explains why Naipaul is one of the biggest writers writing in English today.

I first encountered VS Naipaul in 1972, sometime in March as I recall. The timing could not have been better.

We were then living in Karachi, in a housing colony on Garden Road. We were Bengalis who were no longer citizens, trapped in Pakistan and waiting to get out of there to Bangladesh. Waiting, with our lives on hold. As the days passed, quite unexpectedly, I discovered that I was free in a way I had never been before. None of the old things – exams, classes, textbooks, schedules – mattered a hoot anymore. My parents couldn’t care less. In that void, I took to reading. I scoured for books, piling them up in a corner of my room. I read them, one by one, in a dreamlike state – it was reading at its purest. Even now, those books are vividly with me. Around us, Pakistan was reeling from being cut down to size, with half its vaunted army in Indian POW camps, with Bhutto ranting and workers rioting in the streets. But I sat in the still eye of this storm and kept reading, the boy in the bubble. When, quite unexpectedly, Naipaul came calling. Read more