V. S. Naipaul
V. S. Naipaul has been called "the world's writer." Naipaul is a British citizen, and he writes in English; he was educated at Oxford University, and he currently resides in Wiltshire, England. All the elements lend themselves to imagining an almost cozy British writer, happily ensconced within British society. And yet Naipaul's novels, stories, and essays are anything but complacent, rooted in place, or, for that matter, cozy. In major novels from A House for Mr. Biswas (1961) to The Mimic Men (1967)
In a Free State (1971), Guerillas (1973), and The Enigma of Arrival (1987), Naipaul has addressed the most volatile, violent, and despairing aspects of life in the developing world, from India to Africa to the Caribbean. Naipaul has referred to himself as "rootless," in spite of his present rootedness in the British countryside, and as "content to be a colonial, without a past, without ancestors."
Naipaul can be compared to his great precursor Joseph Conrad, also a novelist of the world, an exile and a rootless man. Conrad was never fully part of British society, and his first language was Polish, yet he remains a consummate British writer. Naipaul is something of a reverse Conrad, in that, also a self-imposed exile, he came back to the heart of England from one of the "ends of the earth" Conrad writes about. Naipaul's prose style is as elegantly British as the most rooted of British native writers; he uses chiseled cadences to construct compelling narratives about the strangest thing of all—the ordinariness of the extraordinary in modern times. He deals with specific themes: the loss of home in postcolonial Britain, the loss of the past that is a consequence of these forced migrations, and the unalterable void that remains behind.
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