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The Writer and the World: Essays

V.S. Naipaul

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ISBN 10: 0375407391 / ISBN 13: 9780375407390
Published by Knopf, 2002
Used Condition: Used: Good Soft cover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Writer and the World: Essays

Publisher: Knopf

Publication Date: 2002

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition:Used: Good

About this title

Synopsis:

For forty years V. S. Naipaul has been traveling and, through his writing, creating one of the most wide-ranging and sustained meditations on our world. Now, for the first time, his finest shorter pieces of reflection and reportage — nearly all of them heretofore out of print — are collected in one volume.

With an abiding faith in the redemptive power of modernity balanced by a sense of wonder about the past, Naipaul has explored an astonishing variety of societies and peoples through the many-sided prism of his own experience. Whether writing about the Muslim invasions of India, Mobutu’s mad reign in Zaire, or the New York mayoral elections, he has demonstrated again and again that no one has a shrewder intuition of the ways in which power works, of the universal relation of the exploiter and the exploited. And no one has put forth a more consistently eloquent defense of the dignity of the individual and the value of civilization.

Infused with a deeply felt humanism, The Writer and the World attests powerfully not only to Naipaul’s status as the great English prose stylist of our time but also to his keen, often prophetic, understanding.

Review:

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

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