Trinidadian-British Nobel Prize-Winning Writer
V. S. Naipaul, fully Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul
Trinidadian-British Nobel Prize-Winning Writer
The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it... It wasn't only the sand drifts and the mud and the narrow, winding, broken roads up in the mountains. There was all that business at the frontier posts, all that haggling in the forest outside wooden huts that flew strange flags. I had to talk myself and my Peugeot past the men with guns -- just to drive through bush and more bush. And then I had to talk even harder, and shed a few more bank notes and give away more of my tinned food, to get myself -- and the Peugeot -- out of the places I had talked us into. Some of these palavers could take half a day.
To read a newspaper for the first time is like coming into a film that has been on for an hour. Newspapers are like serials. To understand them you have to take knowledge to them; . . . best is the knowledge provided by the newspaper itself.
When the man was totting up the fare, all the deluxe supplements, he worked the sum out twenty times on the adding machine. The same sum, twenty times. Why? Did he think the machine was going to change its mind?
The world outside existed in a kind of darkness; and we inquired about nothing.
To this day, if you ask me how I became a writer, I cannot give you an answer. To this day, if you ask me how a book is written, I cannot answer. For long periods, if I didn't know that somehow in the past I had written a book, I would have given up.
When things went wrong they had the consolations of religion. This wasn?t just a readiness to accept Fate; this was a quiet and profound conviction about the vanity of all human endeavour.
The writer is all alone.
Trinidad may seem complex, but to anyone who knows it, it is a simple, colonial, philistine society.
When we had come no one could tell me. We were not that kind of people. We simply lived; we did what was expected of us, what we had seen the previous generation do. We never asked why; we never recorded. We felt in our bones that we were a very old people; but we seemed to have no means of gauging the passing of time. Neither my father nor my grandfather could put dates to their stories. Not because they had forgotten or were confused; the past was simply the past.
Their primary idea was the old Bengali idea of the Motherland, the idea that Bengal had given to the rest of India, Debu said: the idea that India had to be a country one could be proud of. The idea had decayed in Bengal since independence, Debu said. ?In my class the idea is still there, but it is a remnant of the past ? considered an anachronism ? and in the class above, the industrialists and businessmen, the idea exists more or less as a negative quantity.
We cannot understand all the traits we have inherited. Sometimes we can be strangers to ourselves.
Whenever I have had to write fiction, I've always had to invent a character who roughly has my background.
There are certain things that are too painful for people to even write about sometimes, and there are certain things that are too hard to read about again.
We exchanged greetings, and in the African way we could make that take time.
Whereas before he had waited for me to ask questions, now it was he who put up little ideas, little debating points, as though he wanted to get a discussion going.
There are two ways of talking. One is the easy way, where you talk lightly, and the other one is the considered way. The considered way is what I have put my name to.
We feel of the great world that it is simply there, something for the lucky ones among us to explore, and then only at the edges. It never occurs to us that we might make some contribution to it ourselves. And that is why we miss everything. When we land at a place like London airport we are concerned only not to appear foolish. It is more beautiful and more complex than anything we could have dreamed of, but we are concerned only to let people see that we can manage and are not overawed.
With our cynicism, created by years of insecurity, how did we look on men? We judged the salesmen in the van der Weyden by the companies they represented, their ability to offer us concessions. Knowing such men, having access to the services they offered, and being flattered by them that we were not ordinary customers paying the full price or having to take our place in the queue, we thought we had mastered the world.
There may be some part of the world ? dead countries, or secure and by-passed ones ? where men can cherish the past and think of passing on furniture and china to their heirs. Men can do that perhaps in Sweden or Canada.
We had become what the world outside had made us; we had to live in the world as it existed.
Without always knowing what we were doing we were constantly adjusting to the arbitrariness by which we were surrounded.
They say that men should look at the mother of the girl they intend to marry, Yvette said. Girls who did what I did should consider the wife a man has discarded or worn out, and know thye are not going to do much better.
We have nothing. We solace ourselves with the great men of our tribe, the Gandhi and the Nehru, and we castrate ourselves. 'Here, take my manhood and invest it for me. Take my manhood and be a greater man yourself, for my sake!
Women make up half the world; and I thought I had reached the stage where there was nothing in a woman?s nakedness to surprise me. But I felt now as if I was experiencing anew, and seeing a woman for the first time.
They were a hospitable couple and they made a point (I feel for religious reasons) of offering hospitality to frightened or stranded foreigners.