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Between Father and Son: Family Lettersby V.S. Naipaul
Synopses & Reviews
The task of introducing this extraordinary and moving correspondence is a delicate one. In these letters between a father and a son, the older man worn down by the cares of a large family and the distress of unfulfilled ambitions, the younger on the threshold of a broad and brilliant literary career, lies some of the raw material of one of the finest and most enduring novels of the twentieth century: V. S. Naipaul's A House for Mr Biswas. Yet the letters also celebrate Seepersad Naipaul's achievement as a writer, not merely in the genesis and evolution of his single published novel, The Adventures of Gurudeva; but also, and perhaps more strikingly, in revealing the dedication of the true artist. For Seepersad Naipaul (Pa), the life of the mind — the writer's life — was everything: to record the ways of men and women, with a shrewd, comical and kindly eye, and to do that from within his own originality, was to live nobly. In his elder son, Vidia, he found a miraculous echo to this belief — miraculous, because there is no sense of a son's following in his father's footsteps, or of a father's urging that he might do so. There is a sense, rather, of the two men's being in step, neither embarrassed by any of the implications of the generation that divided them — and Vidia only seventeen when the present correspondence opens. The difference in their ages, and the fact of Seepersad's early death, have allowed Vidia to acknowledge the debt he owes to his father, and he has embraced the opportunity to do so in manifold ways in his work. In this correspondence, the reader will recognize the subtle, and unwitting, repayment of a father's debt to his son. . . . GILLON AITKEN
September 21, 1949 — September 22, 1950: Port of Spain to Oxford
September 21, 1949
Dear Kamla Naipaul's elder sister],
I wonder what is the matter with this typewriter. It looks all right now, though. I am enclosing some cuttings which, I am sure, will delight you. You will note that I went after all to the Old Boys' Association Dinner. I can count those hours as among the most painful I have ever spent. In the first place, I have no table manners; in the second, I had no food. Special arrangements, I was informed after the dinner, had been made for me, but these appeared to have been limited to serving me potatoes in various ways — now fried, now boiled. I had told the manager to bring me some corn soup instead of the turtle soup that the others were having. He ignored this and the waiter brought up to me a plateful of a green slime. This was the turtle soup. I was nauseated and annoyed and told the man to take it away. This, I was told, was a gross breach of etiquette. So I had bread and butter and ice-cold water for the first two eating rounds. The menu was in French. What you would call stewed chicken they called 'Poulet Sautéeacute; Renaissance'. Coffee was 'moka'. I had rather expected that to be some exotic Russian dish. Dessert included something called 'Pomme Surprise'. This literally means 'surprised apple', and the younger Hannays, who was next to me, told me it was an apple pudding done in a surprise manner. The thing came. I ate it. It was fine. But I tasted no apple. 'That, ' Hannays told me, 'is the surprise.'
I have just finished filling out the application forms for entrance to the University;
Offering an intimate portrait of the author's early, formative years, a collection of letters chronicles Naipaul's arrival in Oxford from Trinidad as a teenager and his complex relationships with members of his family, including his troubled father and beloved sister. Reprint. 20,000 first printing.
At seventeen, V.S. Naipaul wanted to follow no other profession but writing. Awarded a scholarship by the Trinidadian government, he set out to attend Oxford, where he was encountered avastly different world from the one he yearned to leave behind. Separated from his family by continents, and grappling with depression, financial strain, loneliness, and dislocation, Vido bridged the distance with afaithful correspondence that began shortly before the young man's two-week journey to England and ended soon after his father's death four years later.
Here, for the first time, wehave the opportunity to read this profoundly moving correspondence, which illuminates with unalloyed candor the relationship between a sacrificing father and his determined son as the encourage each other to persevere withtheir writing. For though his father's literary aspirations would go unrealized, Naipaul's triumphant career would ultimately vindicate his beloved mentor'slegacy.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
V. S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad in 1932. He went to England on a scholarship in 1950. After four years at University College, Oxford, he began to write, and since then has followed no other profession. He has published more than twenty books of fiction and nonfiction, including An Area of Darkness, In a Free State, Among the Believers, and India: A Million Mutinies Now. He lives in Wiltshire, England.
From the Hardcover edition.
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