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Literary Occasions: Essays [Paperback]

V.S. Naipaul
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 10, 2004 1400031303 978-1400031306
Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul brings his signature gifts of observation, his ferocious impatience with received truths, and his masterfully condensed prose to these eleven essays on reading, writing, and identity—which have been brought together for the first time.
Here the subject is Naipaul’s literary evolution: the books that delighted him as a child; the books he wrote as a young man; the omnipresent predicament of trying to master an essentially metropolitan, imperial art form as an Asian colonial from a New World plantation island. He assesses Joseph Conrad, the writer most frequently cited as his forebear, and, in his celebrated Nobel Lecture, “Two Worlds,” traces the full arc of his own career. Literary Occasions is an indispensable addition to the Naipaul oeuvre, penetrating, elegant, and affecting.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

One imagines many readers are still absorbing The Writer and the World, Naipaul's magisterial collection of deeply opinionated global political reports and cultural meditations that was released last August, covering the last four decades of the Nobel laureate's nonfiction work. The paperback of Writer pubs a month before this book, which collects Naipaul's literary prose, a mixed bag including everything from reminiscences of his laconic childhood approach toward writing to his 1983 foreword to his celebrated 1961 novel, A House for Mr. Biswas. Indeed, the most substantial piece here, "Prologue to an Autobiography," is also 20 years old and also previously published, as are the other 10 entries here. All touch on Naipaul's Trinidadian upbringing and coming-of-age or his adult writing life in one way or another; together, they form a literary autobiography that has its apotheosis in the most recent piece, Naipaul's 2001 Nobel lecture, "Two Worlds," which notes, "When I began I had no idea of the way ahead. I wished only to do a book." He has done many; this book is for readers interested in their sources.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

"I have trusted to intuition," Naipaul confides in "Two Worlds," his elegant and poignant 2001 Nobel Prize lecture, one jewel among many in this engrossing collection of four decades' worth of literary and autobiographical essays, a companion volume to The Writer and the World [BKL My 1 02]. Naipaul has also obeyed his unceasing need to understand life as lived outside the confines of the immigrant Indian community in the village of Chaguanas, Trinidad, in which he grew up. His sharp reminiscences reveal the source of his unflinching, often controversial analyses of cultural assumptions, the politics of prejudice, and the unreliability of history as he considers the confounding disconnection between his early desire to be a writer and his inability to lose himself in books because what he read had so little to do with his life. In writing about his painful struggle to find his writing voice, Oxford-educated Naipaul considers the legacy of imperialism and relates the incredibly moving story of his father, a self-taught writer. Naipaul's vigorous interpretations of Conrad, Dickens, and R. K. Narayan, and candid self-disclosure cogently explicate the mysterious call to write and celebrate the radiance literature brings to lives otherwise relegated to the shadows. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (August 10, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400031303
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400031306
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.2 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,936,606 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inside the Outsider December 30, 2003
This collection brings together mostly previously published essays by V. S. Naipaul (b. 1932), surely one of the greatest writers living amongst us. The only previously unpublished essay is the lecture he gave when he accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001. Because the essays are generally autobiographical and/or about literary topics, there is a good bit of repetition. His story of growing up in Trididad, member of an emigrant East Indian family, son of a newspaper journalist, winner of a government grant to study at Oxford is well known to anyone who has read much of his work. Still, he brings a clarity and ease in his writing that makes it a delight to read.
The simplicity and rightness of his prose is all the more obvious after one reads the book's introduction in the clotted style of its editor, Pankaj Mishra. Immediately following that introduction is the invaluable 'Reading and Writing, a Personal Account,' previously published as a 60-page book. It is an invaluable source of insights about how a writer gets his start by reading and how he discovers his 'subject.' 'In my fantasy of being a writer there had been no idea how I might actually go about writing a book.' He took heart from the career of Joseph Conrad, which didn't begin until his late thirties. And then, suddenly one day while sitting in a BBC freelancer's office a single sentence describing a scene on his childhood street in Port of Spain popped into his head. He typed it out and it led to the composition of his first short story. And he never looked back.
The other longish piece here is 'Prologue to an Autobiography.' In it he describes incidents from his childhood--the extended Trinidad Indian family of which he was a part, the struggle of his father to be a writer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I am the sum of my books January 25, 2010
In these sometimes highly emotional reflections on his roots (India, Trinidad), his family and his encounters with art (writers, movies), V.S. Naipaul unveils the greatest miracle in his life.

When he visited India for the first time, he saw `dereliction, so many layers of wretchedness. I felt I was in a continent where a mysterious calamity had occurred.'
The Indian colony in Trinidad was a `world of caste and blood'. His clan was a totalitarian organization ruled by a closed circle at the top with an ethos of feuds.

Family (father)
His father gave him the fear of extinction which could only be combated by the exercise of a vocation. His father worshipped writing and writers. For him, the vocation of the writer was the noblest in the world.

`Without Hollywood of the 1930s and 1940s I would have been spiritually quite destitute.'

Literary encounters (most importantly J. Conrad)
Marcel Proust was a writer who trusted his intuition and waited for luck. He stressed the chasm between a writer as a writer ('the mystery of writing') and the writer as a social being.
Nirad Chaudhuri exposed the ignoble privacy of Indian social organizations, the Indian habit of exclusion, denial and non-seeing.
Rudyard Kipling, a club writer, fixed for all time that moment of British India.
Joseph Conrad didn't seek to disclose, only to explain. He maintained a scrupulous fidelity to the truth of his own sensations. His most crucial stance was that the novel should not be an `instructive, unreasoned outpouring of the writer's own emotions, but should produce certain definite effects upon the emotions of its readers.'

`The greatest miracle for me was getting started. I feel - and the anxiety is still vivid to me - that I might easily have failed before I began.'

This deep delving book is a must read for all lovers of world literature and of V.S. Naipaul in particular.
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5.0 out of 5 stars THE INTUITIVE WAY January 20, 2013
By Suzanne
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001 was well deserved after writing more than 20 stunning books of fiction and non-fiction. V. S. Naipaul grew up within of a clan of Hindi Indians, mostly closed off from other cultures in Trinidad. He always knew he wanted to be a writer of novels, going beyond his father's frustrating career in journalism. Naipaul studied very hard in local schools and libraries, his efforts winning a state scholarship which he took at Oxford majoring in English.

Even after graduation, he feels he has no social or literary sense for writing in Western traditions, and there were none in Trinidad beside some local tales that his father had written down. These essays illuminate his personal journey to establish a background and voice for himself using the "intuitive way." Fascinating information for writers.
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