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Saturday, 1 September 2007

"He might not always be saying what he means"

V.S. Naipaul's new book, A Writer's People, isn't officially published until this coming Friday, but the first review is already in: Amit Chaudhuri's, in the UK Guardian. An odd sort of review, as much about D.H. Lawrence as about Naipaul:

No writer since Lawrence has been so openly governed by what seems like powerful personal likes and dislikes, grievances, and by what appear to many as untenable prejudices....

One thing is certain, though: while we can never ignore what these writers are saying, given, especially, the essentially instructive nature of their work, we can't engage wholly with them by taking their statements at face value either. Lawrence, of course, warned the reader about this disjunction between the writer and his message. Naipaul, on the other hand, wants to hold the writer to his or her word. His own message, in A Writer's People, concerns, principally, the idea of "looking"; something that's been at the core of his work from the start. Only an occasional, disorienting air of mischief in some of his pronouncements suggests that he might not always be saying what he means.

And in The Scotsman--oh dear, this really is the year of Naipaul--Tom Adair describes a visit to the Great Man's cottage in Wiltshire: lunch, the cat Augustus, animal rights, and talk of the eventual disposal of VSN's mortal remains. Oh, and cricket:

Lunch is delicious. We sit in our jackets like public schoolboys, eating politely while from the kitchen drifts the commotion of treats to come. We talk about cricket. Today, England are battling to hold off India. In the loyalties test, the Tebbit test, how would Sir Vidia Naipaul fare? "I favour India," he says. "I know the players." No hesitation. What, I ask, of the West Indies?

"The West Indies includes so very many small islands now," he says. "The team is quite different from that of my youth."

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