2001 : V. S. Naipaul

2001 : V. S. Naipaul

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“for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories”



17 August 1932

Place of birth


Chaguanas, Trinidad



Novelist, Essayist



Great Britain

Notable award(s)


Nobel Prize in Literature 2001


Born in Trinidad in a family of Hindu descendants of immigrants originating in North India, he went at the age of 18 in England to study. He obtained a license in 1953 of letters at University College, Oxford and emigrated to England. After graduation he became a journalist, working for several magazines and provides a literary critic for the BBC. He is especially novel and the new, but also published stories documentaries. His early novels take place in the West. After the publication of mystical Masseur (The Mystic Masseur, 1957) and the new code of Miguel Street (1959) which reveals his talents as a comedian and painter of everyday life, there is a huge success with A house for Mr. Biswas (A House for Mr. Biswas, 1961), biographical novel inspired by the figure of his father. Crossing in the middle (* 1962), he delivers several brief summaries of post-colonial British, French and Dutch Caribbean and to their derive to a rampant Americanization. Cosmopolitan writer, Naipaul then expands its geographic scope, citing the adverse effects of colonialism and nationalism in the Third World as Guerilleros (Guerillas, 1975) and the curve of the river (A Bend in a River, 1979) was to ‘then compared by some critics in Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. The author describes his impressions of travel in India in India: a million revolts (India: A Million Mutine Now, 1990) and book a critical analysis of Muslim fundamentalism in non-Arab countries such as Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia and Pakistan with Twilight on Islam (Among the Believers, 1981) and then until the end of faith (Beyond Belief, 1998). His novel The Enigma of Arrival (The Enigma of Arrival, 1987) and his collection of short stories One way in the world (A Way in the World, 1994) are largely autobiographical. In the first, Naipaul relate with the aim of the decline anthropologist then the destruction of an area south of England and its owner: event that reflects the collapse of colonial culture and the dominant local companies . The second refers to the mixture between the Caribbean and Indian traditions and Western culture that the author discovers when he settled in England. Often his works desespererent the third world which criticized his pessimism. Now, many people recognize their sad character prescient. The author says, it does stick to the rigor of its observations and authenticity of Quotes collected. Naipaul is recognizable for its inimitable style that combines documentary realism with a satirical vision of the world. Tourmondiste moralist and literary modes away, the writer refers to as close to the real and gives its historical and ethnic area a fiction that perpetuates the tradition of Persian Literature and Candide in the need to express, with the talent of a storyteller, disparities and cultural policies in a global society marked by instability and chaos. Naipaul has received several literary awards, including the Hawthornden Prize in 1964, the Booker Prize in 1971 and the TS Eliot Award for Creative Writing in 1986. Doctor Honoris Causa of several universities, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1990. He won in 2001 literature Nobel Prize for Literature, “for mixed perceptive narrative and incorruptible observation in works that condemn us to see the presence of pent history” . Sir V. S. Naipaul is a member of the Literary Society.


Selected Works:

  • The Mystic Masseur – London: Deutsch, 1957.

  • Miguel Street – London: Deutsch, 1959.

  • A House for Mr. Biswas – London: Deutsch, 1961.

  • The Middle Passage : Impressions of Five Societies – British, French and Dutch in the West Indies and South America – London: Deutsch, 1962.

  • Mr. Stone and the Knights Companion – London: Deutsch, 1963.

  • A Flag on the Island – London: Deutsch, 1967.

  • The Mimic Men – London : Deutsch, 1967.

  • The Loss of El Dorado : a History – London: Deutsch, 1969.

  • In a Free State – London: Deutsch, 1971.

  • The Overcrowded Barracoon and Other Articles – London: Deutsch, 1972.

  • Guerrillas – London: Deutsch, 1975.

  • India : a Wounded Civilization – London: Deutsch, 1977.

  • A Bend in the River – London: Deutsch, 1979.

  • A Congo Diary – Los Angeles, CA: Sylvester & Orphanos, 1980.

  • Among the Believers : an Islamic Journey – London: Deutsch, 1981.

  • The Enigma of Arrival – London: Viking, 1987.

  • India : a Million Mutinies Now – London: Heinemann, 1990.

  • A Way in the World – London: Heinemann, 1994.

  • Beyond Belief : Islamic Excursions among the Converted Peoples – London: Little, Brown, 1998.

  • Reading and Writing : a Personal Account – New York: New York Review of Books, 2000.

  • Half a Life – London: Picador, 2001.

  • The Writer and the World : Essays. Introduced and edited by Pankaj Mishra – London : Picador, 2002 ; New York : Knopf, 2002

  • Literary Occasions : Essays. Introduced and edited by Pankaj Mishra – London : Picador, 2003 ; New York : Knopf, 2003

  • Magic Seeds : [novel] – London : Picador, 2003 ; New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2004

  • Vintage Naipaul – New York : Vintage Books, 2004

  • A Writer’s People : Ways of Looking and Feeling – London : Picador, 2007


  • Theroux, Paul, V.S. Naipaul : an Introduction to his Work – London: Deutsch, 1972.

  • Hamner, Robert, V.S. Naipaul – New York: Twayne, 1973.

  • Critical Perspectives on V.S. Naipaul. Ed. Robert D. Hamner – London: Heinemann, 1979.

  • Nightingale, Peggy, Journey through Darkness : The Writing of V.S. Naipaul – St. Lucia: Univ. of Queensland Press, 1987.

  • Hughes, Peter, V.S. Naipaul – London: Routledge, 1988.

  • Jarvis, Kelvin, V.S. Naipaul : a Selective Bibliography with Annotations, 1957–1987 – Metuchen, N. J.: Scarecrow, 1989.

  • Kelly, Richard, V.S. Naipaul – New York: Continuum, 1989.

  • Weiss, Timothy F., On the Margins : The Art of Exile in V.S. Naipaul – Amherst: Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 1992.

  • Dissanayake, Wimal, Self and Colonial Desire : Travel Writings of V.S. Naipaul – New York: P. Lang, 1993.

  • King, Bruce, V.S. Naipaul – Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1993.

  • Levy, Judith, V.S. Naipaul : Displacement and Autobiography – New York: Garland, 1995.

  • Conversations with V.S. Naipaul. Ed. Feroza Jussawalla – Jackson: Univ. Press of Mississippi, 1997.

  • Khan, Akhtar Jamal, V.S. Naipaul : A Critical Study – New Delhi: Creative Books, 1998.

  • Theroux, Paul, Sir Vidia’s Shadow : A Friendship across Five Continents – Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998.

  • Naipaul, V.S., Pour en finir avec vos mensonges : Sir Vidia en conversations. Traduit de l’anglais par Isabelle di Natale et Beatrice Dunner – Monaco : Rocher, 2001

  • Hayward, Helen, The Enigma of V.S. Naipaul : Sources and Contexts – New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2002

  • King, Bruce, V.S. Naipaul. 2. ed. – Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan, 2003

  • Barnouw, Dagmar, Naipaul’s Strangers – Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 2003

  • Dooley, Gillian, V.S. Naipaul, Man and Writer – Columbia : University of South Carolina Press, 2006

  • French, Patrick, The World is What it is : the Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul – London : Picador, 2008


1971: Booker Prize.

2001: Nobel Prize in Literature.


Excerpt from The Enigma of Arrival

Even the creation of the moment was a reflection on the decay clear to me, such was my orientation. This nervous sensitivity of minted me as children in Trinidad, and it was partly due to family circumstances – the semi-derelict or nergangna house we lived in, the many movements, our general insecurity. Possibly, this sensitivity deeper roots, perhaps it was inherited from my ancestors, which were linked to my story, not just India, with its ideas about a world outside human control, but also the colonial plantations or properties in Trinidad, where my poor Indian ancestors had been transported during the last century – property that the Wiltshiregods where I now lived had been a model for. Fifty years ago there would have been room for me on the property, and even now my presence was a bit unlikely. But it was not just chance that brought me here. Or rather, it was so in the range of random events that brought me to the cottage with views of the restored church of goods plots, was a clear historical line. Emigration from India to Trinidad in the British Empire had done to the English language has become mine, that I have received special training. This was partly an inspiration for my desire to become a special kind of writer and paved the way for the literary career that I now had devoted myself to the past twenty years in England. The history I carried with me and the awareness of my own, I followed that with education and ambition had sent me into the world with a feeling that our greatness was over, and in England, my nervous sensitivity increased in a manner that was typical of outcast. Ironically – or should – enough, diminished in this sensitivity when I lived on the now depleted cargo plots, and I found a natural beauty in the garden and feral in the orchard next to swamp meadows, a beauty that suited my mind perfect, and who also represented the views I could possibly have had as a child in Trinidad on how England would come to tea itself. The goods had been enormous, I heard. It was partly created by the empire’s wealth. But then, there had gradually sold off. The family flourished with its many branches in other places. Here in the valley now lived just my landlord, an elderly bachelor, and the people who took care of him. Some physical FRAILTY had now been added to the illness which struck him a few years earlier, a disease that I had no precise knowledge about but which I interpreted as something akin to apathy, or a medieval monk disease disease – which have been the result of the large security and the worldly blessings which so much has been his ticket in life. Apatin had made him a loony who did not let anyone other than the closest of friends quickly life. Therefore, I could enjoy a kind of loneliness at both the goods themselves and during my walks on the heaths. I felt great sympathy for my landlord. I thought I could understand his illness, I saw it as an equivalent to my own. I thought not of him as a failure. Words that failure and success was not applicable. Only a great man or a man of high regard for their human value could ignore the rich world and live fornojsamt in its half derelict property as he did. It employing my thoughts on where the goods were not empire AT A LOW EBB. Rather, I am amazed me over the chain of historical events which had brought us together, so that he now lived there in her house and I in his cottage, that we are surrounded by an untamed garden, which (after what I heard) entirely consistent with his taste and also with my.

Presentation Speech:

Presentation Speech by Horace Engdahl, Ph.D., Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, December 10, 2001.

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Honoured Nobel Laureates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the Middle Ages, master craftsmen worked in full view in the street or in an open workshop, so that prospective buyers could see that the materials they use were geniune and that no defects were hidden beneath a luxurious surface treatment. Similarly, as a mature writer V. S. Naipaul has allowed us to scrutinize his craft and the conditions surrounding it. He has candidly described how, as a beginner, he neglected to obtain knowledge of what he saw and falsified his experiences in order to live up to the perception of literature he had gained through his British schooling.

He knew at an early age that he had to write, but not what. His first book, The Mystic Masseur, appears very bold when read in the light of his confessions about the awkward beginnings of his own career as a writer. The masseur/charlatan is the author’s shadow and caricature, to which he exorcistically transfers his bizarre traits and imagined failures, something like Sartre did with the autodidact in La Nausee.

Naipaul was born on the West Indian island of Trinidad as a descendant of immigrant workers from India, in a milieu where peoples and cultures from four continents mixed. In his case, moving into literature presupposed irrevocably breaking away from these origins. Yet it was not until the moment when he decided to explore what he had abandoned that his writing took off. His childhood street set the tone for him. At first it was playful and immediate, but the subject grew in his hands. In the book that made him famous, A House for Mr. Biswas, he lent the profundity of the major novel to the wing-clipped characters in a Caribbean backwater and granted them dignity. Mr. Biswas, who bears traits of Naipaul’s father, gained a place in the English literary gallery of immortal tragicomic heroes.

Naipaul’s subsequent works examined, in ever wider circles, the forgotten historical circumstances that explain the author’s background. He became an explorer, not of the wilderness but of societies – everywhere at home and a stranger, a Ulysses whose only Ithaca was his desk. Perhaps he is a witness from the freely circulating humanity of the future.

Naipaul has been praised for writing the best English in the market, and that may well be, but his view of style is reminiscent of Stendahl’s, who believed a writer has failed if the reader remembers the words he has written: what should remain are his ideas. Naipaul is no worshipper of fantasy or utopia, no creator of alternative worlds. Dickens’ ability to describe London with the open gaze and simplicity of a child is his declared ideal. He continues a critical direction in literature that distances itself from myth and expressive hyperbole. His text is permanently unrelenting, like a chill wind that will not stop blowing.

In Reading and Writing, an essay of great value in understanding his works, Naipaul relates his steadily growing doubts about the novel, the grand genre of the West. He describes how while working on his history of Trinidad, The Loss of El Dorado, he found in the archives traces of the native tribe that had given its name to the small city where he spent his first years, and how his perception of reality suddenly expanded. “Fiction by itself would not have taken me to this larger comprehension,” he writes. The technique he adopted while working on El Dorado – unearthing from the documents the life stories of seemingly insignificant individuals – returns when he works with the notes from his journeys. The various literary forms he has tried – fictional narrative, autobiography, feature story and historical documentary – have eventually merged into a unique genre, “prose in the style of Naipaul”. By this innovation, he has enlarged the territory of literature.

One experience that seems to have been crucial to his literary method is his first encounter with India. He saw traces of a history that had been concealed from view when the champions of independence had to deny the misfortunes that had preceeded the English: six hundred years of Muslim imperialism that deliberately destroyed the memory of earlier civilisations and plunged the Hindus into a helplessness similar to that of the American Indians. He studied R.K. Narayan’s novels in the Indian setting and saw that their world is built around an emptiness that the author is incapable of dealing with: the forgotten defeat that turned people into dwarves among monumental ruins. Only an intact culture provides the background knowledge that makes the novel a reasonable form, Naipaul argues. He found that he had to cling to the authenticity of details and voices and abstain from fabulation, while continuing to give his material a literary shape. He became a collector of testimony.

This method presupposes the courage to seek out human phenomena that frighten every normal observer, the author included. But even when he reports from places where no hope seems to exist, the author’s empathy makes itself felt in the acuity of his ear. He says he finds every person interesting, at least for the first few hours. He distinguishes individual fates beyond the dutiful idealization that controls our perception of the earth’s ill-fated nations. He wants to understand the principle of every person’s life, the decisive thing that makes him what he is. He records the relationship between pretension and reality, two contours that never really cover each other and never completely diverge.

Decay and disappearance are a fundamental theme in Naipaul’s writings – but without grief, rather as something that makes existence bearable. The English landscape that he discovers in The Enigma of Arrival is the ruin of an age of greatness, and at last he feels at home! He says that even as a child, he has pondered that he was born into a world past its climax. Yet his books are not negative. His phrasing embodies an absence of resignation that keeps melancholy at bay and shares with the reader the pure joy of intelligence.

Naipaul has praised the West for having recognized the right to individual endeavour and for its diffidence. The core of his devotion to European civilisation is that it was the only one of the alternative cultures that made it possible for him to become a writer.

Sir Vidia!Your life as a writer calls to mind what Alfred Nobel said of himself: “My homeland is where I work, and I work everywhere.” In every place, you have remained yourself, faithful to your instinct. Your books trace the outline of an individual quest of unusual dimensions. Like a Nemo piloting a craft of your own design, without representing anyone or anything, you have manifested the independence of literature. I would like to convey to you the warm congratulations of the Swedish Academy as I now request you to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature from the hands of His Majesty the King.

Nobel Lecture:

7 December 2001

Two Worlds

It is for me an unusual situation. If I give readings, I do not talk or speech. I always say this to people who ask me a lecture. And that’s the truth. It may seem strange that a man who for nearly fifty years professes to handle the words, emotions and ideas had nothing to offer in a way. But what I have to say is worthwhile in my books. Or is not yet fully formed. I am also barely conscious. It awaits the next book and, with luck, I will write – by surprise. It is this element of surprise I want when I write, and I can – always tricky business – to judge my work. In Contre Sainte-Beuve, Proust spoke with great penetration of the difference between the writer and social welfare. Sainte-Beuve believed that to understand an author should know as much as possible about the man outside and on the details of his life. Illuminate the work by man is an appealing and may seem unassailable. Proust the demolished nevertheless very convincing. “This method,” he says, “that ignores the attendance a little deeper with ourselves teaches us: a book is the product of another me that we express in our habits in society In our vices. This is me, if we want to try to understand is the substance of ourselves, trying to recreate it in us, that we can do it. ” We should have these words of Proust in mind whenever we read the biography of a writer or anyone else depends on what you can draw inspiration. It too will expose us all the details of his life, his quirks and his friendships, the mystery of writing will remain. No amount of information, so exciting as it is, we can not drive. The biography of a writer – or even the autobiography – will always be that gap. Proust is a master of amplification happy, and I return briefly to Contre Sainte-Beuve. “In reality,” he continues, “what gives the public is what has been written only for oneself, it is the work itself. What we give intimacy, ie the conversation… and these productions for privacy, ie rapetissees taste of some people who are not that the conversation written, it is the work of a so much outside, not from me profound than that found disregarding other and me who knows the other….” When he wrote these words, Proust had not yet found the topic that would lead to happiness of his great literary work. And you can conclude that I just mentioned that he was a man who relied on his intuition and lurked a chance. I have quoted these phrases in other circumstances. Because they define how I proceeded. I rely on intuition. I did at first. I still do today. I have no idea how things will turn, where the writing will lead me then. I leave me to my intuition to find topics and I write intuitively. Without doubt I have an idea, shape, starting, but I will have to wait years before they fully understand what I wrote. I said just now that all that is good in me is in my books. I will go further: I am the sum of my books. Each of them felt intuitively and in the case of fiction, intuitively developed crown earlier and proceeded. It seems to me that any stage of my literary career might have been saying that the last book contained all the others. This is due to circumstances, both extremely simple and extremely complicated, where I grew up. I was born in Trinidad, a small island at the mouth of the Orinoco, the great river of Venezuela. Trinidad is therefore, strictly speaking, or South America or the Caribbean. This colony of planting the New World had in 1932, the year of my birth, some 400 000 inhabitants, including about 150 000 Indians, Hindus and Muslims, almost all ethnic and peasant, the vast majority originating in the Ganges plain. That was my tiny home community. The bulk of immigration occurred after 1880. The following conditions: people committed to work five years in plantations and at the end of this period they received a piece of land, perhaps two hectares, or a return ticket to India. In 1917, following agitation by Gandhi and others, this contract system was abolished. And perhaps because of it, or for other reasons, many of the recent arrivals n’obtinrent not land or repatriation promised. These people were totally destitute. They slept in the streets of Port of Spain, the capital. I’ve seen them, child. I guess that I do not know misery – I had understood much later – and they have not left a particular impression. That was part of the cruelty of the colony planting. I was born in Chaguanas, a town of Interior, four or five kilometers from the Gulf of Paria. Chaguanas was a strange name, the spelling and pronunciation, and many Indians – they were the majority in the region – preferred to call it a caste Indian Chauhan. I was thirty-four years old when I discovered where the name came from the place of my birth. I lived in London and it was sixteen years that I lived in England. I was in the process of writing my ninth book, a history of Trinidad who tried to revive people and their stories. I would often read at the British Museum documents on the Spanish region. These documents had been copied in Spanish archives for the British government in the 1890s, when a bitter border dispute with Venezuela. They begin in 1530 and end with the demise of the Spanish Empire. J’enquetais on the absurd search for El Dorado and the deadly intrusion English hero, Sir Walter Raleigh. In 1595, he assailed Trinidad, massacre all Spaniards grabbed it and went up the Orinoco in search of Eldorado. It does nothing, but claimed the opposite in returning to England. He had to show a nugget of gold extracted, make it a cliff on the banks of the Orinoco, and a little sand. The mint said that the sand that he asked to analyze was worthless, and other insinuerent he had previously bought gold in North Africa. Raleigh then wrote a book to prove his point, for four centuries and it is believed he had found something. The Magic Book from Raleigh, reading a really tough one, lies in its very long title: The Discovery of large, rich and beautiful Empire of Guiana, with a relation of the great golden city of Manoa (which the Spaniards call El Dorado ) And the provinces of Emeria of Aromaia of Amapaia and other countries, as well as surrounding rivers. That seems real! While he had barely ventured over the course of the Orinoco. Then, as sometimes happens with crooks, Raleigh was caught by its own affabulation. Twenty-one years later, old and sick, we came out of his prison London to seek Allat Guyana gold mines that he had discovered. His son died in this adventure fraudulent. The father, to save his reputation, not to disavow his lies, had sent his son to death. Then, full of grief, without any reason to live, Raleigh returned to London to enforce. The story could end there. But the Spaniards had long memory – probably because their imperial correspondence was so slow: it was sometimes two years for a letter from Trinidad to be read in Spain. Eight years later, the Spaniards from Trinidad and Guyana yet settled their accounts with the Indians in the Gulf. In that letter reflects the king of Spain in Trinidad governor, dated 12 October 1625, I read in the British Museum: “I asked you,” wrote King, “to enlighten me on some of nation ‘ Chaguanes called Indians, whose numbers, you say, than one thousand, and are in such bad provisions that were the ones who led the English when they seized the city. Their crime was not punished because there were no forces available for that purpose and because the Indians do to master their own will. You’ve decided to punish. Follow the rules I’ve set and let I know the outcome of your efforts. ” What did the governor, I do not know. I could not find any other reference to Chaguanes in museum records. Perhaps it existed in the mountains of paper kept in the Archives of Seville other documents on Chaguanes, learned that the British government envoys left jugerent escape or unworthy of transcribing. What is certain in any case is that the small tribe of more than a thousand Indians – who had to live on both sides of the Gulf of Paria – disappeared so completely that no one in the town of Chaguanas or Chauhan did not know what that was about it. And I said that day at the British Museum, I was the first person since 1625 to whom this letter from the king of Spain actually meant something. And it had been exhumed archives in 1896 or 1897. A disappearance, then centuries of silence. We lived on the lands of Chaguanes. Every day of the school year – I just started school – I left the house of my grandmother and along the two or three stores from the Grand-Rue, the Chinese bar, theater Jubilee and the small factory Portuguese powerful odor that made soap blue and yellow cheap, long rods placed in the morning outside to dry and harden in the morning. Each day I spent at these things that seemed eternal to get to the Chaguanas Government School. Beyond school, sugar cane plantations spread to the Gulf of Paria. The Indians were dispossessed of their own kind of agriculture, their timing, their codes and their sacred places. They included currents that closely track the Orinoco in the Gulf of Paria. But all their knowledge and their experience had been destroyed. The world is always in motion. Everywhere, at one time or another, people are deprived. I was shocked in 1967 by this discovery about my hometown because I know everything. But that was how most of us live in the colony agricultural blindly. Not that the authorities have meditated to keep us in our darkness. I simply believe that the same knowledge were absent. This kind of information on Chaguanes was not considered important and would not have been easy to exhume. They formed a small tribe, and they were Aborigines. We had heard of their peers on the continent, in what was called BG, British Guiana, British Guiana, and they were the subject of jokes. In Trinidad, and I believe in all communities, it described as ill subjects warrahoons raucous. I thought it was a word coined express, to suggest the savagery. Only when I started to travel to Venezuela, quarantine venue, I discovered that it was the name of a sizeable indigenous tribe of the place.

When I was a kid, there was a vague history – and this is a story that upsets me terribly today – of indigenous people sometimes came in the continent by canoe at times sinking into the forest of southern the island and to a place, pick a particular fruit or had some kind of offering, then retraversaient the Gulf of Paria to regain the estuary of the Orinoco soggy. This rite was to have enormous importance for having survived the upheavals of four centuries and the extinction of species in Trinidad. Or perhaps – although Trinidad and Venezuela have a common flora – they were only picking fruit particular. I do not know. Nobody cared, if I recall. And now the memory is completely lost, and this sacred place, if there is now a wasteland. The past was past. I guess that was the general attitude. And we Indians, immigrants from India, we had this attitude towards the island. We conduct for the most ritualized and lives were not yet capable of self-evaluation necessary to begin to learn. Half of us on this earth Chaguanes claimed – or perhaps does not, but felt, but never make the idea – that we made a kind of India with us, that we could, so say, as a place mat on the plain. The house of my grandmother in Chaguanes was divided into two parts. The front, brick and plaster, was painted white. It was a kind of Indian house with a large terrace balustrade at the first and a prayer room on the floor above. The decoration was meant to be ambitious columns in the capitals of lotus flower and sculptures of Indian deities, all performed by people for whom India was a memory. In Trinidad, was an architectural oddity. At the rear of this residence, and linked to it by an upper gallery, was built wooden style of the French Antilles. The entrance was on the side between two houses. His high corrugated iron gate of the amounts of wood meant a fierce intimacy. Child, I had the sense of two worlds, the world outside the top portal corrugated iron, and the world from home – or at least from my grandmother. It was a remnant of our sense of caste, something that excluded and isolated. In Trinidad, where newcomers, we were a community disadvantage, the idea of exclusion was a kind of protection, which allowed us – for a moment – to live in our own way and according to our own rules to live in our own India being blurred. Hence an extraordinary self-centredness. We look inwards we fulfill our days and the outside world existed in a sort of darkness, we can ask ourselves about anything. There was a Muslim shop next door. The small loggia of the shop my grandmother butait against his wall. The man called Mian. It was all I knew of him and his family. I guess we had seen, but it remains for me to no mental picture. We knew nothing of Muslims. This idea from abroad, of what it takes to contain the outside, extended even to other Hindus. For example, we ate rice in the middle of the day and wheat in the evening. But there were very strange people who reverse this natural order and ate rice in the evening. For me these people were foreigners – must imagine, boy under the age of seven, because I was seven years old when this life in the house of my grandmother in Chaguanas ended for me. We moved into the capital, then in the hills north-west. But the habits of mind engendered by the existence of confinement and exclusion have long persisted. Without new wrote my father, I would have known virtually nothing of the life of our Indian community. These stories gave me more than knowledge, a kind of strength: a foothold in the world. I can not imagine what my mental universe would have been without this news. The world outside existed in a sort of darkness, and we do questions about anything. I was just large enough to know a little Indian epics, the Ramayana in particular. The children arrived some five years after us in our extended family did not have that chance. Nobody taught us Hindi. Sometimes someone wrote the alphabet so that we learn, and it was everything we were supposed to do the rest alone. Also, as seeping English, we started to lose our language. The house of my grandmother was full of religion; there were all kinds of ceremonies and lectures, some extending for days. But nobody did or not translated for us, who could no longer follow the language. Our ancestral faith was therefore dissolved, became mysterious, not reflected in our daily lives. We do not seek to inform us about India or on families that people had left there. When our way of thinking had changed and that we wanted to know, it was too late. I know nothing of my father’s arm, I only know that some came from Nepal. Two years ago, a lovely Nepalese, who liked my name, sent me a few pages copied to a directory of English geographical 1872 on India, Hindu Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Benares. There was, among many other names, a list of Nepalese residing in the holy city of Varanasi, which bore the name of Naipal. That is all I have. Far from this side from my grandmother, where we ate rice in the middle of the day and wheat in the evening extended the vast unknown – in this island of only 400 000 inhabitants. There were Africans and Africans of mixed race, which formed the majority. They were policemen, teachers. That my first teacher at the Chaguanas Government School, I remembered her with adoration for years. There was the capital, where very soon we would all have to go to our studies and find work, and where we permanently, among strangers. There were whites, not all English and Portuguese, and Chinese immigrants once like us. And most mysterious of all, those we call the ‘Pagnol, people mixed with hot and brown complexion from time to Spain before the island was separated from Venezuela and the Spanish Empire – a kind of history totally beyond my understanding children. To give you the idea of my roots, I had to rely on knowledge and ideas that I came long after, beginning of writing. Child, I knew almost nothing, nothing beyond what I learned from my grandmother. All children, I imagine, come into the world like that, without knowing who they are. But the little French, for example, know awaits. It is all around him. It comes indirectly from the conversation of adults. It is in newspapers and on radio. And at school, the work of generations of scholars, simplified for textbooks, will give a certain idea of France and the French. In Trinidad, so brilliant about that I was, I was surrounded by areas of darkness. The school n’elucidait nothing to me. I was crammed with facts and formulas. Everything had to be learned by heart, everything was abstract for me. Again, I do not think there was a plan or conspiracy to make our way similar. What we got was the standard school learning. In another context, it would have meaning. And at least part of the failure was due m’eut. With my limited social experience, it was difficult to come by imagination in other societies, near and far. I loved the idea of books, but I find it difficult to read. I was more comfortable with things like Andersen and Aesop, out of time, out of space, without exception. And when I finally came to end like some of our literary texts – Shakespeare, Cyrano de Bergerac – I guess it is because they had something of the fairy tale. When I became a writer, these areas of darkness around me child became my subjects. The country, the Aborigines, the New World, the colony’s history, India, the Muslim world – which I felt also linked – Africa, then England, where I wrote my books. That is what I had in mind by saying that my books stand one on another and I am the sum of my books. And by saying that my background, source and sting of my work, were both extremely simple and extremely complicated. You saw how everything was easy in the small town of Chaguanas. And I think you understand how it was complicated for the writer. Especially in the beginning, when the literary models where I had – the models provided by what I can only call my false knowledge – dealt with entirely different companies. Maybe you still have the impression that the material was so rich that there was no problem to begin and continue. But what I said to my origins comes from the knowledge that I gained in writing. And you must believe me when I say that the structure of my work does is clear to me that the last two or three months. I read passages of my first book and I saw the connections. Previously, the most difficult for me was to describe my work with people to explain what I did. I said that I was a writer, intuition. This was the case, and it is still so today I am so close to the end. I never had a plan. I have no monitoring system. I worked intuitively. My goal each time was to make a book, creating something easy and interesting to read. At each stage, I had to work within the limits of my knowledge, my sensitivity, my talent and my world view. All this has developed book after book. And I had to write these books, because none exists on these subjects that give me what I wanted. I had to clear my universe, light, for myself. I had to go see the documents at the British Museum and elsewhere, to find just the feeling of the history of the colony. It took me go to India, because there was nobody to tell me what it was like India where my grandparents came. Undoubtedly the texts of Nehru and Gandhi, and curiously, it was Gandhi, and his South African experience, which gave me the most, but not enough. There was Kipling; and Anglo-Indian writers like John Masters (very popular in the 1950s, which announced the project abandoned thereafter, I fear, a fresco in thirty-five novels about British India) ; There were novelists. The few Indian authors who had drilled at the time were people of the middle class, urban dwellers, they did not know where we come India. And when this need was met Indian, others became apparent: Africa, South America, the Muslim world. The aim has always been to build my image of the world, and the reason comes from my childhood: I get more comfortable with myself. We wonder sometimes go to Germany, for example, or China, to write a book. But there are many good books on these places and I am quite prepared to give me the literature. Indeed, these are subjects for other people. These are not areas of darkness that I felt around me, child. Therefore, just as it is a development in my work, a development of narrative technique, knowledge and sensitivity, there is also a kind of unity, a focus, even if I can give the printing to go in many directions. When I started, I had no idea where I was going. I just wanted to do a book. I tried to write in England, where I stayed after my university years, and I felt that my experience was very thin, was not really the stuff of books. In a book I could not find anything that was approchat what I had experienced child. The young French or young Englishman who wanted to write would have found countless models to put on the track. I did not. The stories of my father on our Indian community belonged to the past. My world was very different. More urban, more mixed. The physical details of the chaotic existence of our extended family – sleeping rooms or places to sleep, meal times, the sheer number of people – seemed impossible to handle. There were too many things to explain, in both my family and the outside world. And at the same time there were too many things on us – as our own ancestors and our own history – that I did not know. Finally one day I had idea to start with the streets of Port of Spain where we moved after Chaguanas. No large corrugated iron gate to exclude the world. Street life I was open. It was a pleasure as the intense out from the veranda. This life of the street as I began to tell. I wanted to write fast, to avoid too much introspection, so I simplified. I deleted the personal story of the young narrator, I ignored the racial and social complexities of the street. I have nothing explained. I stayed at ground, so to speak. I did the people as they appeared in the streets. I wrote a new day. The first five were very short, and I began to wonder if I would have enough material. Can the magic of writing has made. The materials began to flow from all sides. The stories became longer; impossible to write in one day. Finally inspiration, a moment that had seemed very easy, get angry on his vague, has dried up. But a book had been written, and I had become, for me at least, a writer. The distance between the writer and his material was cut into the following two books, the vision was broader. Then intuition led me to undertake a large volume on our family life. My ambition grew as a writer. But when it was finished, I felt that I learned everything I could from my island. I think beautiful, no other history was not me. The chance, then, came to my rescue. I became friends. I traveled to the Caribbean and I better understood the mechanism colonial which I belong. I went to India, the homeland of my ancestors, for one year; this journey my life broke in two. The books I’ve written on these two trips have risen to new areas of emotion, gave me a vision of the world that I’ve ever had, extended me technically. The novel came to me then I could understand the England along with the West – and that it was difficult! I am also able to apprehend all racial groups on the island, which I had never been done. This new novel spoke of guilt and colonial fantasies, as, indeed, whose low lying on themselves and lie to themselves, since this is their only resource. “The Mimic Men (” imitators “), this book referred to the men of settlements singent the condition of adults, these men who have ended up having more confidence in anything that concerns them. I read a few pages of this book the other day – I had not opened for over thirty years – and I realized that I had written colonial schizophrenia. But I had not realized then. I never used abstract words to describe any of my literary projects. Otherwise, I would never come to this book. It was written intuitively, and only from the most careful observation. I presented this brief description of my literary debut to try to show what steps, in just ten years, the place of my birth has changed or developed in my writing: the comedy of life of the street a study of a general sort of schizophrenia. What was simple became complicated. It is fiction and travelogue who gave me my way of seeing and you do not surprise me that for all literary forms have equal value. I understood, for example, undertaking my third book on India – twenty-six years after the first – that the most important in a travelogue it’s the people walking among them the writer. Let people define themselves. Very simple idea, but that required a new kind of book, a new way to travel. And it’s the same method I used then, when I went for the second time in the Muslim world. I am always moved by intuition alone. I have no system, literary or political. I have no political principle director. Probably because of my ancestry. The Indian writer R. K. Narayan, who died this year, had no political ideas. My father, who wrote his stories at a time very dark, and without any reward, either. Maybe because we stayed away from the authority for centuries. It gives us a particular point of view. I feel that we are more likely to see humor and pity of things. There are nearly thirty years, I went to Argentina. It was the time of the guerrillas. People waiting for the return from exile of former dictator Peron. The country beyond hatred. The Peronist waiting to settle old scores. One of them told me: “There is good torture and bad torture.” Good torture was what you did to the enemies of the people. The bad that you were the enemies of the people. People on the other side saying the same thing. No real debate on anything. There was that passion and political jargon borrowed from Europe. “Where,” I wrote, “jargon transforms problems living in abstractions, and the jargons eventually collide, people do not have causes. They have enemies.” And passions continue to give free rein in Argentina, destroying any reason and destroying lives. No solution in sight. J’approche now to the end of my work. I am pleased to have done what I did, pleased me in creating advanced as far as I could. Thanks to the intuitive way in which I write, and also the daunting nature of my material, each book has proved a blessing. Each book me eberlue; write until I never knew he was there. But the greatest miracle for me was to begin. I feel – and anxiety is always present for me – that I could easily fail before they started. I will finish as I started using one of these wonderful tests in Proust Against Sainte-Beuve: “The beautiful things we write if we have the talent we are, indistinct, as the memory of an air , Which we charm without that we can trace the outline…. Those who are haunted by the memory confusing truths they have ever known are men who are gifted…. Talent is like a kind of memory that will eventually bring them confused this music, to hear clearly, the note….” Talent, Proust said. I would say the luck and hard work.


A House for Mr Biswas

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