Synopses & Reviews
Since V. S. Naipaul left his Caribbean birthplace at the age of seventeen, his improbable life has followed the global movement of peoples, whose preeminent literary chronicler he has become. In The World Is What It Is,
Patrick French offers the first authoritative biography of the controversial Nobel laureate, whose only stated ambition was greatness as a writer, in pursuit of which goal nothing else was sacred.
Beginning with a richly detailed portrait of Naipauls childhood in colonial Trinidad, French gives us the boy born to an Indian family, the displaced soul in a displaced community, who by dint of talent and ambition finds the only imaginable way out: a scholarship to Oxford. London in the 1950s offers hope and his first literary success, but homesickness and depression almost defeat Vidia, his narrow escape aided by Patricia Hale, an Englishwoman who will devote herself to his work and well-being. She will stand by him, sometimes tenuously, for more than four decades, even as Naipaul embarks on a twenty-four-year affair, which will awaken half-dead passions and feed perhaps his greatest wave of dizzying creativity. Amid this harrowing emotional life, French traces the course of the fierce visionary impulse underlying Naipauls singular power, a gift to produce masterpieces of fiction and nonfiction.
Informed by exclusive access to V. S. Naipauls private papers and personal recollections, and by great feeling for his formidable body of work, Frenchs revelatory biography does full justice to an enigmatic genius.
"V.S. Naipaul's biographer aims not 'to sit in judgment of the Nobel laureate, but to expose the subject with ruthless clarity to the calm eye of the reader.' In this he succeeds admirably. Descendant of poor Brahmins, born in 1932 in Trinidad and educated in Oxford, Naipaul is haunted by matters of race, colonialism and sex. He is, says award-winning author French (Younghusband), both the racist (against those darker than he) and the victim of racial prejudice, tendencies that come through in his novels and in his treatment of friends and lovers. Haunting this biography are Naipaul's women. His wife, Pat, supported him, overlooked his affairs and his visits with prostitutes, and subordinated herself to his genius; Naipaul gave equally little to Margaret, his mistress. Naipaul and his books may be the subject of this work, but it is these and the other women whom he depended on and took for granted from his editor to his mother whose stories will keep that 'calm eye of the reader' glued to the pages of this disturbing biography. 16 pages of photos." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"With the aid of this exhaustive and efficient biography, one can make some more-educated surmises about the connection between Naipaul's rigidly maintained exterior and the many layers of insecurity perhaps better say the many varieties of insecurity that underlie it. It was shrewd and intelligent of French to take the opening sentence from A Bend in the River
'The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it' and describe it as 'terrifying,' then annex it for his title." Christopher Hitchens, The Atlantic Monthly
(read the entire Atlantic Monthly review
About the Author
Patrick French was born in England in 1966 and studied literature at Edinburgh University. He is the author of Younghusband, Liberty or Death and Tibet, Tibet, and is a winner of the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, the Royal Society of Literature Heinemann Prize and the Somerset Maugham Award.