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A House for Mr Biswas, published in 1961, is one of the imperishable novels of the 20th century: Teju Cole

NaipaulA House for Mr Biswas is episodic and packed with conflict. Mr Biswas subverts heroic convention: he is smart and funny, but also often petulant, mean and unsympathetic. His enemies, who are mostly his relatives, are largely unlikable, but they also have their admirable moments. The narrative of the novel is propelled by a clear goal – the acquisition of the titular house – which, it becomes apparent, can only be achieved by the most exhaustively circuitous route. It is a novel of epic length, formal perfection, and contains two notable peculiarities: its setting, which, being domestic, is unusual for an epic; and its geographical location, Trinidad, an important island in the Caribbean but not a particularly influential one on the world stage. And yet, this severely delimited context gave VS Naipaul an entire world of experience and feeling on which to draw. A House for Mr Biswas, published in 1961, is one of the imperishable novels of the 20th century. Continue reading

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10 Rules of Writing: Amitava Kumar

Amitava_KumarWhen I was promoted to the rank of professor, the library at the university where I was then employed asked me to send them the name of a book that had been useful to me in my career. I chose VS Naipaul’s Finding the Center. The library then purchased a copy, which was duly displayed in one of its rooms, with a statement I had written about the book:

This was one of the first literary autobiographies that I read. Its very first sentence established in my mind the idea of writing as an opening in time or a beginning; it conveyed to me, with its movement and rhythm, a history of repeated striving, and of things coming together, at last, in the achievement of the printed word: “It is now nearly thirty years since, in a BBC room in London, on an old BBC typewriter, and on smooth, ‘non-rustle’ BBC script paper, I wrote the first sentence of my first publishable book.” Continue reading


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V S Naipaul leads stellar cast of writers for Indian summer of literature and arts in UK

NaipaulNobel laureate V S Naipaul will lead a stellar cast of Indian writers descending on London to attend the city’s most sought after literary festival.

The year 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Naipaul’s literary masterpiece A House of Mr Biswas.

From a discussion on Mahatma Gandhi’s genius to the wounds of the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 – described as the largest mass migration in history, writers like Anita Anand, Lance Price, Nils Nordberg, Sam Miller, Tahmima Anam and Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee will form part of the second Jaipur Literary Festival at London’s famous Southbank Centre.

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V. S. Naipaul: ‘ISIS is now the Fourth Reich’

VSNaipaulThe Nobel Prize-winning author V.S. Naipaul has warned that Islamic State are the most potent threat to the world since the Nazis.

In a hard-hitting article in UK’s Mail on Sunday, the revered novelist brands the extremist Muslim organisation as the Fourth Reich, saying it is comparable to Adolf Hitler’s regime in its fanaticism and barbarity.

“Just as the Third Reich did, Isis categorises its enemies as worthy of particular means of execution from decapitation to crucifixion and death by fire,” he writes. Continue reading


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Salman Rushdie hits back at Jnanpith winner Bhalchandra Nemade

Salman RushdieWriter Salman Rushdie has lashed out at Jnanpith award-winning Marathi writer Bhalchandra Nemade for his comment that Rushdie’s works lacked literary merit.

Shortly after being chosen for the prestigious Jnanpith award on Friday, Mr. Nemade made the remarks at a felicitation programme organised by the Matrubhasha Samvardhan Sabha in Mumbai. He dismissed the works of Mr. Rushdie and V.S. Naipaul as “pandering to the West.” Mr. Rushdie’s works after Midnight’s Children lacked literary merit, he said. Continue reading


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Ban English, says Jnanpith winner, hits out at Naipaul and Rushdie

On a day he was declared winner of the 2014 Jnanpith award, India’s highest literary honour, Marathi writer Bhalchandra Nemade described English as a ” killer language” and calling for its banning from the field of education in India. He also sharply criticized two Indian-origin writers, V S Naipaul and Salman Rushdie, for “pandering to the West” and dismissed their works as being of little value. Continue reading


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VS Naipaul’s notorious conceit has drained away – and the man who remains is hard to read: Ian Jack

A writer’s personality can colour your sense of his work – but at a literary festival in India last week, the sad problem was almost the opposite: The Guardian

VSNaipaulFew books have meant more to me than some of those written by VS Naipaul, although the more I knew (or thought I knew) about the author, the less straightforward my admiration of his books became. One school of thought says this is foolish: a writer and his work need to be seen in separate compartments, so that the work can’t be contaminated by the author’s reputation as a wife-beating drunk, child molester or antisemite. Naipaul is none of these, but his perplexing frankness has hurt many people close to him and revealed a breathtaking, almost comic, arrogance that this reader at least finds hard to forget. In the age when writers were read and not seen or heard, we would have known much less about these characteristics. Which reader of Biggles knew the true life and habits of captain WE Johns, or even how he looked? Today, however, writers are often more visible than their books, which makes the argument for a work-life division harder to sustain. At literary festivals, we see a person rather than a printed page. It can have unexpected effects. Continue reading


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Zee Jaipur Literature Festival: I am in the sunset of my life, quips VS Naipaul

VSNaipaulHe’s 82-years-old, frail and not in the best of health, but Nobel laureate Sir VS Naipaul had the crowds at Jaipur hanging on to his every word on Saturday at the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival (ZeeJLF). Speaking to Naipaul about his life and writings was Farrukh Dhondy, his long-time friend and eminent British novelist and scriptwriter, even as his wife, Lady Nadira, sat in a chair behind him, taking notes, holding the microphone when he became too tired to hold it, and prompting the words when he forgot what he was saying or ran out of steam.  Continue reading


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Jaipur festival stages VS Naipaul and Paul Theroux’s public reconciliation

Nobel laureate ‘overwhelmed’ at public event to celebrate A House for Mr Biswas: The Guardian

NaipaulWill 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.”  Continue reading


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My Mother Had Asked Me to Leave India to the Indians: VS Naipaul

NaipaulAfter Nobel Laureate VS Naipaul penned books on India with titles such as “An Area of Darkness” and “A Wounded Civilisation,” his mother asked him to leave India and write on other subjects, the Nobel Laureate said today.

The Indian-origin British author, who was born in Trinidad narrated what his mother had to say to him. “The only Hindi word my mother carried from India was ‘beta’ and she said ‘beta please leave India to the Indians’,” Mr Naipaul recalled during the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival.

The 82-year-old wheelchair bound author has published 30 books over half a decade and that includes those on travel. “I came to India first because of curiosity about my ancestral land. My publisher had agreed to pay me an advance for anything I would write on India. Although it was a petty amount even then I felt at peace to get it. I didn’t know how to move in India but eventually I had to find my way,” he said.

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