art in all its forms

art in all its forms


Native Son

The great books of VS Naipaul

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HE WROTE dozens of books, yet, in a sense, VS Naipaul spent a lifetime writing only one thing: his own story. 
After the early novels, in which his keen ear for dialogue, technical mastery of prose, and talent for comedy emerges triumphantly; after the magisterial A House for Mr Biswas, in which the title character’s profound vulnerability sheds light on the fate of Trinidad as a new nation; after the novels set in London, in which he sought to prove he could write about anyone anywhere and in wintery tones too; after In a Free State, which saw him push against the margins of the novel; after the ambitious books of sex, violence and Black Power; after The Enigma of Arrival, a work that has not lost its power to confound; after the forced yet sometimes beautiful sequences towards the end of his fiction; and the turn to stunning reportage and travel writing, in which he spoke truth to power and offended in equal measure – after all of this we are left with, in effect, the most astonishing autobiography in English letters.
On August 11, on his deathbed in London, Naipaul took comfort in Tennyson’s poem Crossing the Bar, with its tide that “turns again home,” 
For some, the question is: which home? 
The books provide the answer. They can and should be read as one. They tell a tale that always leads back to Trinidad. He remains a native son. 
His prose is famously crystal clear, but Naipaul the man was as messy as they come. 

- from my piece in Sunday Newsday, August 19, 2018. Read in full here. Find another piece, also published in the same paper, and with focus on the non-fiction, here.

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