The Enigma of V.S. Naipaul: Sources and Contexts
The Nobel Prize-winning writer, V S Naipaul has claimed, 'All my work is really one. I'm writing one big book'. Taking him at his word, Helen Hayward sought to find in her perceptive, well-researched and objective study of the artist, the recurring themes that run through his novels, travel books short stories, articles and interviews over forty years. She first explores his troubled relationships with his writer-father, Seepersad Naipaul, then his curiously ambivalent attitudes towards his adopted England, the Caribbean, India, the Islamic world, and Africa. What emerges is a writer whose whole life has been characterized by a profound distaste for facile judgements on politics, history, art and religion, an artist, who like Swift, is often most witty when most depressed and most ironic when most sympathetic. Born into and raised on a colonial world, he is regarded by many as one of the most trenchant critics of the corruption, greed and brutality of the post-colonial world. Examining Naipaul's major novels, travel writing and autobiographical work, Helen Hayward traces a pattern of themes and concerns which cast new light in the relationship between the life and the work as well as the creative process itself. She examines key Naipaulian concepts such as cultural alienation, detachment and anxiety, relating them to the narrative of the writer's life, a story in which fact and fiction are deliberately and artistically blurred.