One Writer’s Development

Below, (excerpts from) a great essay by James Wallenstein on Patrick French’s authorised biography of V. S. Naipaul, The World Is What It Is, in the March/April 2009 issue of The Boston Review:

From the 1980s onward, however, Naipaul’s development slow, or at any rate, shifts. The travel writing becomes more like oral history while the fiction becomes less fictional and more autobiographical. Ambitious formal innovation continues, but at the cost of an interest in story, which remains much the same from work to work. “Prologue to an Autobiography,” The Enigma of Arrival, A Way in the World, and Half a Life are all meditations, related at a meditative pace and with a meditative reluctance to dramatize, on journeys — one-way or round-trip, modern and premodern — between a colonial periphery and a metropolitan center. What drama arises in them is all in the past.

Experience figures prominently in the earlier books: neighbors from his childhood in Port of Spain are the models for the characters in Miguel Street, encounters on a two-month return visit in 1956, provide the basis for the send-up of Trinidadian electoral politics in The Suffrage of Elvira, and Biswas is as much an act of memory as of imagination. Yet Naipaul’s later work relies on events in his personal life, though that life becomes no less exciting. In light of his apparent dearth of fictional material through the second half of his career, the rejection of experience as a source for his work may look like a missed opportunity. This is especially so since his themes grew more autobiographical just as he sought to omit the facts of his own autobiography.

The omissions, it turns out, are by design. They reflect a shift in artistic intention, an anti-individualistic aesthetic that develops in the course of the first half of Naipaul’s career as he confronts the popular limitations imposed on his work by his status as an outsider in England.

The essay goes on, but self has to stop here. Self thinks it is brilliant, just brilliant. When self thinks of Naipaul’s later work, what comes to mind first is always the paintings of de Chirico. Especially when she re-reads The Enigma of Arrival.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

To Tell the Truth

. . .  hubby did not enjoy “2 Fast 2 Furious.”

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Self emphatically thinks this is the best movie she has seen so far this year!

There are movies that aspire to high art (This is not one of them)

There are Read the rest of this entry »

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