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A Way in the World: A Novel Paperback – June 24, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Billed by the publisher as Naipaul's first novel since The Enigma of Arrival in 1987, this can really be regarded as fiction only by the most extremely elastic definition. It is in fact a series of extended essays, meditations and dramatized historical reconstructions that originally carried the perhaps more fitting subtitle "A Sequence." Naipaul ruminates, with all his acute intelligence, on how history shapes personality--and vice versa. The book begins and ends with unexpectedly personal autobiographical sketches of Naipaul: as a boy in Trinidad; as a bright young clerk with a scholarship and a future; as a fledgling writer struggling in London; and, finally, in a later period, in an unnamed East African country where he reencounters a character from his youth. These flank two much longer pieces, which are both poignant and superbly realized portraits of elderly figures whose once-powerful lives were wrecked, more than 200 years apart, by their efforts to exploit, economically and politically, the corner of South America where Trinidad looks across the Bay of Paria to the swampy mainland of Venezuela. Sir Walter Raleigh came twice, with dreams of gold fathered by Columbus, and is seen on his last voyage, about to return to death in the Tower. Francisco Miranda, an astonishing, courtly con man who used, and was used by, both British and Spanish governments as a would-be "liberator" of Latin America in the late 18th century, is seen in fragile Trinidadian exile, exchanging thoughtful, chatty letters with his wife in London. Naipaul's mastery of his material is absolute, and his seemingly effortless, beautifully wrought prose carries the reader to the heart of the mysteries of human destiny. 35,000 first printing.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

After seven years, Naipaul returns to fiction to explore the sources and implications of his feelings of rootlessness, the realities of the colonial experience, the impact of cultural displacement, and our need to belong. He does so through a series of linked historical narratives. Among them is an imagined vision of Raleigh's desperate but futile search for El Dorado. We are also introduced to Francisco de Miranda, one of the precursors to Bolivar's revolution. We are witness to the irony inherent in the life of Lebrun, a Trinidadian/Panamanian Communist of the 1930s. And then there is Blair, a former co-worker of the narrator in Trinidad, whose African roots prove no help when he becomes an adviser to an East African despot. These are tales of lost souls desperate to find a place at the table but who never quite succeed, leaving them doomed to remain on the fringes of history. A work from a fine and thoughtful storyteller that belongs in all collections of serious fiction.
--David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New title edition (June 24, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679761667
  • ISBN-13: 978-0433397113
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #522,640 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 18, 1997
Format: Paperback
Mr. Naipaul never ceases to amaze in the depth and fertility of his imagination. Weaving history with fiction, biography and comedy we are never sure where he is leading in a tale spanning continents and centuries. It is a prose poetry at its finest, enveloping the reader with texts that only Naipaul his capable of. To say V.S.Naipaul is a an exquiste writer; a writer's writer would be an understatement.

A Way In The World represents a novel of such genius, I was and continue to be in awe of the magnificent and masterly control of the English language. I am in love with writing again. Thank you V.S. Naipual
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Donal A. O'Neill on April 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is an unusual - perhaps even unique - variety of novel, having at first glance no discernible structure and seeming like a series of meditations on the experience of West-Indian colonialism, linked by personal reminiscences of the author. It is only when the book is finished that the masterful integration of the complexities of plot, descriptions and reflections become fully obvious. Much of the work can be seen as an extended series of imagined scenes and dialogues inspired by the dominant themes of the writer's earlier non-fiction work "The Loss of El Dorado", itself a powerful and searing account of the discovery of Trinidad, its capture from the Spaniards by the British, its failed role as a springboard for incitement of revolution on the South American mainland, and its transformation into a slave society. Whereas the earlier work was strictly factual the form of the later novel allows Naipaul to use the full power of his imagination to visualise the motivations of historical players such as Raleigh and Miranda and their reactions to specific situations. There are a host of other characters however, all probably with a basis in actuality, all are realised with the same degree of keen, indeed merciless, perception that characterises Naipaul's fiction at its best. The scenes of action shift rapidly in both time and locale - from the Elizabethan age, on through the turmoil of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods, right through the twentieth century to our own day, with Trinidad, Venezuela, London and an unnamed African colony (Uganda?) providing the backdrop. Those who know these societies today will be impressed by the uncanny accuracy with which their very "feel" is portrayed. This is the work of a master in his prime - wonderful!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Shinermel on July 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
I am a huge fan of V.S. Naipaul. The premise of this book--exploring the effects of the colonial situation upon the lives of three men--is excellent. However, this book is a confusing conglomeration of three separate and unrelated stories, and there were times when I found myself wondering what was going on. I love Naipaul's flair for narrative and description, but the sections on Miranda are almost entirely dialogue, with lots of obscure references. I actually skipped over the last section on Miranda because I just could not get through it, whereas normally I am unable to put down Naipaul's books. Not one of his best works...in fact I don't recommend it to anyone aside from those hardcore fans who are determined to read everything this great novelist has ever written.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
WAY IN THE WORLD, by V. S. Naipaul.

My three stars reflect my own diminished enjoyment rather than the intrinsic quality of this well-written book by the Nobel-prizewinning author. It may even be an important work but, despite the description on the cover, it is not a novel in any normal sense. Born in Trinidad of Asian Indian parentage, Naipaul found himself at a crossroads of Spanish and British colonizers, African slaves, Indian immigrants, and the aboriginal inhabitants. His book is a meditation on the implications of this heritage, an "archaeology of colonialism" as the back cover aptly describes it. Starting with a partly-fictionalized account of his early years in Trinidad and in London, the author branches off into stories about other men connected with Trinidad over the ages: a minor novelist, a Marxist revolutionary, a nineteenth-century con-man (Francisco Miranda) hailed as a predecessor of Simon Bolivar, and the doomed Sir Walter Raleigh on his last voyage. Many of these vignettes are interesting, but they read more as a series of articles than as a single narrative. More even than Trinidad the place, the thread that connects these various episodes is the developing philosophy within the author's mind.

Naipaul's writing is simple, but this book is remarkably difficult to get through. Curiously, he has one of his characters describe the very difficulty that I myself encountered. He is talking to Raleigh about his own book on the region: "It's nice and easy and clear and brilliant for a number of pages, and then suddenly you feel you've not been paying attention. You feel you've missed something. So you go back. You've missed nothing. It's just that something has gone wrong with the writing. This happens many times. So even if you're a careful reader you lose the drift of the narrative." My reactions exactly.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Werner Cohn on August 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
My primary interest in this book is the fifth story, "On the Run." This is the fictional rendering of an actual person, viz. CLR James, the Black literary, left-wing politician originally from Trinidad, the home of Naipaul. In the story James is called "Lebrun," and some of the unimportant details have been slightly altered. James, who died in 1989 in his eighties, has recently enjoyed a bit of posthumous lionization at the hands of certain left-wing writers. While Naipaul deals with him with utmost gentleness, there is no exxcaping the fact that James was an inveterate sorehead, a notorious womanizer, an energetic blowhard, a careful organizer of his own coterie in several countries. Naipaul suggests that there may also have been a sinister side to Lebrun/James. He doesn't insist, but the suggestion is there. Let the reader decide !
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