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From a master of the English language—winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature—a collection of essays about reading, writing, and identity.
In these eleven pieces—brought together for the first time—Naipaul charts more than half a century of personal inquiry into the mysteries of written expression and of fiction in particular. Here are his boyhood experiences of reading books and his first youthful efforts at writing them; the early glimmers and the evolution of ideas about the proper relation of particular literary forms to particular cultures and identities. Here, too, is Naipaul’s famous comment on his putative literary forebear Conrad, and a less familiar but no less intriguing preface to the only book Naipaul’s father ever published. Finally, in his celebrated Nobel Lecture, “Two Worlds,” Naipaul reflects on the full scope of his career, rounding off the volume as an intellectual autobiography. Sustained by extraordinary powers of expression and thought, Literary Occasions is a stirring contribution to the fading art of the critic, and a revelation as well of a life in letters, in its many exemplary instances.
“He brings to [nonfiction] an extraordinary capacity for making art out of lucid thought. . . . I can no longer imagine the world without Naipaul’s writing.” —Vivian Gornick, Los Angeles Times Book Review
“[Naipaul] has a genius for noticing, a genius for freezing the instant when meaning is born from the accidents of the everyday. . . . Each sentence pounces on its meaning, neat as a cat.” —The New York Review of Books
“It is altogether tonic to have a writer such as V. S. Naipaul in our midst.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Fascinating. . . . Poignant. . . . He shows an almost scientific precocity at being an observer and historian of his family’s life. . . . A lean little guidebook to the making of a Nobel laureate.” —The Miami Herald
“[Literary Occasions] shed[s] light on Naipaul’s intellectual evolution and on the source of his social insight, his humor, and his gentle melancholy.” —The Boston Globe
“Splendid. . . . Affecting. . . . The perfect complement to Naipaul’s volume of travel and political essays, The Writer and the World.” —The Oregonian
“[A] gift to the reading and writing public. . . . Literary Occasions is . . . an ideal place to make one’s first acquaintance with Naipaul’s literary universe.” —Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Deeply affecting. . . . Personally revealing. . . . Thoughtful clarity . . . characterizes all his prose.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Fascinating. . . . Naipaul truly is a writer for the world.” —The Tennessean
“Nuanced, personal. . . . Naipaul’s prose is a perfect combination of lucidity, elegance and gloom.” —The Telegraph (Calcutta, India)
“Naipaul’s essays play an important part in understanding this remarkable writer. . . . Those already familiar with his work will find their understanding greatly enhanced by these essays.” —The Sunday Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ)
“Superbly written. . . . [Naipaul is] a gifted and articulate writer whose prose, comments, and analysis force readers to closely inspect their own ideas.” —Nashville City Paper
Prologue: Reading and Writing, a Personal Account
Prologue to an Autobiography
Foreword to The Adventures of Gurudeva
Foreword to A House for Mr. Biswas
The Last of the Aryans
Conrad’s Darkness and Mine
Postscript: Two Worlds (The Nobel Lecture)