Trinidadian-British Nobel Prize-Winning Writer
V. S. Naipaul, fully Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul
Trinidadian-British Nobel Prize-Winning Writer
Because they could assess themselves, the Europeans were better equipped to cope with changes than we were.
For the first time in his life he began to experience a kind of true pride. He felt himself, so to speak, taking up space when he walked in the streets; and he wondered whether this was how other people felt all the time, without effort, all the secure people he met in London and Africa.
How we flounder when emotion overtakes us.
All the things that were read to me by my father were stories about things becoming all right.
Before comfort had been squeezed out of the hard land, like blood out of stone.
For when one thinks of Guiana one thinks of a country whose inadequate resources are strained in every way, a country whose geography imposes on it an administration and a programme of public works out of all proportion to its revenue and population. One thinks of the sea-wall, forever being breached and repaired; the dikes made of mud for want of money; the dirt roads and their occasional experimental surfacing; the roads that are necessary but not yet made; the decadent railways ('Three-fourths of the passenger rolling stock,' says a matter-of-fact little note in the government paper on the Development Programme, 'is old and nearing the point beyond which further repairs will be impossible'); the three overworked Dakotas and two Grumman seaplanes of British Guiana Airways. And one thinks of the streets of Albouystown, as crowded with children as a schoolyard during recess.
I also bought a copy of The New York Times, the previous day's issue of which I had seen the previous day in Puerto Rico. I was interested in newspapers and knew this paper to be one of the foremost in the world. But 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; the knowledge that serves best is the knowledge provided by the newspaper itself. It made me feel a stranger, that paper.
Always, sailing up from the south, from beyond the bend in the river, were clumps of water hyacinths, dark floating islands on the dark river, bobbing over the rapids. It was as if rain and river were tearing away bush from the heart of the continent and floating it down to the ocean, incalculable miles away. But the water hyacinth was the fruit of the river alone. The tall lilac-colored flower had appeared only a few years before, and in the local language there was no word for it. The people still called it the new thing or the new thing in the river, and to them it was another enemy. Its rubbery vines and leaves formed thick tangles of vegetation that adhered to the river banks and clogged up waterways. It grew fast, faster than men could destroy it with the tools they had. The channels to the villages had to be constantly cleared. Night and day the water hyacinth floated up from the south, seeding itself as it travelled. I
But at night, if you were on the river, it was another thing. You felt the land taking you back to something that was familiar, something you had known at some time but had forgotten or ignored, but which was always there. You felt the land taking you back to what was there a hundred years ago, to what had been there always.
For years and years, even during the time of my first visit in 1962, it has been said that Calcutta was dying, that its port was silting up, its antiquated industry declining, but Calcutta hadn't died. It hadn't done much, but it had gone on; and it had begun to appear that the prophecy has been excessive. Now it occurred to me that perhaps this was what happened when cities died. They don't die with a bang; they didn't die only when they were abandoned. Perhaps, they died like this: when everybody was suffering, when transport was so hard that working people gave up jobs they needed because the fear the suffering of the travel; When no one had clean water or air; No one could go walking. Perhaps city died when they lost amenities that cities provided, the visual excitement, the heightened sense of human possibility, and became simply places where there were too many people, and people suffered.
I always knew who I was and where I had come from. I was not looking for a home in other people's lands.
An autobiography can distort, facts can be realigned. But fiction never lies. It reveals the writer totally.
But everything of value about me is in my books.
Going home at night! It wasn't often that I was on the river at night. I never liked it. I never felt in control. In the darkness of river and forest you could be sure only of what you could see ? and even on a moonlight night you couldn't see much. When you made a noise ? dipped a paddle in the water ? you heard yourself as though you were another person. The river and the forest were like presences, and much more powerful than you. You felt unprotected, an intruder ... You felt the land taking you back to something that was familiar, something you had known at some time but had forgotten or ignored, but which was always there. You felt the land taking you back to what was there a hundred years ago, to what had been there always.
I am the kind of writer that people think other people are reading.
A businessman is someone who buys at ten and is happy to get out at twelve. The other kind of man buys at ten, sees it rise to eighteen and does nothing. He is waiting for it to get to twenty. The beauty of numbers. When it drops to ten again he waits for it to get back to eighteen. When it drops to two he waits for it to get back to ten. Well, it gets back there. But he has wasted a quarter of his life. And all he's got out of his money is a little mathematical excitement.
Anand, look at the back of my hands. No hair. The sign of an advanced race, boy. And look at yours. No hair either. But you never know. With some of your mother's bad blood flowing in your veins you could wake up one morning and find yourself hairy like a monkey
But I thought: That is the sound of war. That sound of a steady, grinding machine made me think of guns; and then I thought of the crazed and half-starved village people against whom the guns were going to be used, people whose rags were already the color of ashes. This was the anxiety of a moment of wakefulness; I fell asleep again. When
Government that breaks its own laws can also easily break you.
I became very interested in the Islamic question, and thought I would try to understand it from the roots, ask very simple questions and somehow make a narrative of that discovery.
A cat only has itself.
And in India it was necessary to take people's feelings into consideration.
But the airplane is a wonderful thing. You are still in one place when you arrive at the other. The airplane is faster than the heart. You arrive quickly and you leave quickly. You don't grieve too much. And there is something else about the airplane. You can go back many times to the same place. And something strange happens if you go back often enough. You stop grieving for the past. You see that the past is something in your mind alone, that it doesn't exist in real life. You trample on the past, you crush it. In the beginning it is like trampling on a garden. In the end you are just walking on ground. That is the way we have to learn to live now. The past is here. He touched his heart. It isn't there. And he pointed at the dusty road.
Great writing can be done in biography, history, art.
I came to London. It had become the center of my world and I had worked hard to come to it. And I was lost.