Spanning four decades and four continents, this magisterial volume brings together the essential shorter works of reflection and reportage by our most sensitive, literate, and undeceivable observer of the post-colonial world. In its pages V. S. Naipaul trains his relentless moral intelligence on societies from India to the United States and sees how each deals with the challenges of modernity and the seductions of both the real and mythical past.
Whether he is writing about a string of racial murders in Trinidad; the mad, corrupt reign of Mobutu in Zaire; Argentina under the generals; or Dallas during the 1984 Republican Convention, Naipaul combines intellectual playfulness with sorrow, indignation, and analysis so far-reaching that it approaches prophecy. The Writer and the World reminds us that he is in a class by himself.
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V.S. Naipaul is a creature of paradox. Nowhere is this more apparent than in his essay collection, The Writer and the World. These essays, selected and introduced by Pankaj Mishra, range from the early 1960s to the mid-1980s. In them, our man travels the world, from his native Trinidad to his ancestral India to America and beyond, always looking with clear eyes at what's right there in front of him. In doing so, he's given us a distinctly Naipaulean journalism: he writes about countries as though they were people. "The politics of a country," he says, "can only be an extension of its idea of human relationships." His writing is, as a result, simultaneously petty and grand. Here, he writes of Belize City:
In the late afternoons Negroes in jackets and ties--famous throughout Central America for their immunity to disease--walk behind the hearses to the cemetery just outside the town, waving white handkerchiefs... It is like a ceremony of bewildered farewell at the limit of the world. But they are only keeping off the mosquitoes and sand flies.Here is a writer who turns the specific to the universal, seemingly without effort. If Naipaul has a reputation as a grouch, it's only because he never lets go of the specific in favor of the universal. The two always coexist. The pieces contained here--mostly heretofore out of print--are short in length, catholic in interest, and in all a fine introduction to our most cosmopolitan postcolonial writer. --Claire Dederer From the Back Cover:
“The most splendid writer of English alive today. . . . He looks into the mad eye of history and does not blink.” —The Boston Globe
“It is altogether tonic to have a writer such as V. S. Naipaul in our midst. . . . This volume is as good a place as any to discover why he is a figure of such consequence.” —Daphne Merkin, The New York Times Book Review
“Naipaul brings to the [nonfiction] genre an extraordinary capacity for making art out of lucid thought. . . . [His is] a way of thinking about the world that will compel our attention throughout his working life and well beyond. . . . I can no longer imagine the world without Naipaul’s writing.” —Vivian Gornick, Los Angeles Times Book Review
“Perceptive . . . inspired, provocative. . . . Naipaul has succeeded in richly articulating a writer’s engagement with and exploration of the world.” –The San Diego Union-Tribune
“A profound, bracing meditation on the legacy of the colonial world. . . . His writing [offers] the world through eyes possessed of a noble clarity.” –Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“A welcome and worthy volume. . . . Only Naipaul can take a dim view of so much and so many, yet keep that dimness fantastically illuminated. . . . His prose is often simultaneously a blunt instrument and a surgical one, equally freighted with broad dismissive statements and blood-lettingly dissective insight.” –San Francisco Chronicle
“The quality and credibility of Naipaul’s words become apparent when you find yourself savoring [his] descriptions. . . . Once finished with the collection, the reader will never see the world through the same eyes again.” –Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Witheringly astute. . . . One of our finest living writers. . . . Naipaul’s is a crystalline, no-nonsense style. . . . He gives you the real world.” –The Weekly Standard
“Naipaul is essential reading today for anyone interested in a dissection of the universal tension that exists now between the East and the West. . . . His scholarship is exhaustive, his intuition trustworthy, and his scrutiny is unwavering.” –The Oregonian
“Wonderfully insightful. . . . Few writers are as qualified for the present moment, and few writers are as needed.” –The Orlando Sentinel
“Naipaul forces the traveler to think. . . . [He is] ever curious, ever exact in his observations.” –Austin American-Statesman
“Splendid. . . . Elegant and understated. . . . Naipaul is insatiable in his pursuit of facts and brilliant in his analysis of them.” –The Sunday Star-Ledger
“Naipaul’s essays . . . depict a chaotic world, torn by ethnic, religious and cultural antagonisms, but they also discover the humanity that unites us, and thereby provide the kind of reassurance that perhaps only literature affords.” –San Jose Mercury News
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