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Paperback Between Father and Son: Family Letters Book

ISBN: 0375707263

ISBN13: 9780375707261

Between Father and Son: Family Letters

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Book Overview

An "extraordinary rich correspondence" (The New York Times Book Review) between a seventeen-year-old aspiring writer at Oxford who would go on to become a Nobel Prize winning author and his sacrificing, beloved father.

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 encountered a vastly different world from...

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V S Naipaul: His Early Years

Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul is the author of more than a score books of fiction and nonfiction, including the highly acclaimed "A House for Mr. Biswas," "India: A Million Mutinies Now," and "Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples." His writing has been praised by Elizabeth Hardwick in the "New York Times Book Review": "The sweep of Naipaul's imagination, the brilliant fictional frame that expresses it, are in my view without equal today"; and by John Updike in "The New Yorker": "A Tolstoyan spirit. The so-called Third World has produced no more brilliant literary artist." Born and raised in Trinidad among the large community of people of Indian origin, Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul ("Vido"), at age 17, won a government scholarship to attend Oxford University. Written a few years before he won the Nobel prize, "Between Father and Son: Family Letters" illuminates the author's years of launching his writing career. Most of the letters are addressed from Oxford to his father, Seepersad Naipaul ("Pa"), an impecunious journalist and a self-published short-story writer, and to his older sister, Kamla, who also won a scholarship and was attending Benares Hindu University in India. The book reads like an engrossing novel. It also shows us much of the raw experience Naipaul transformed into A House for Mr. Biswas. In a recent National Public Radio interview, Naipaul said that although he gave permission to publish the letters, he did not participate in making selections. Nor does he intend reading the book--too many painful memories. Gillon Aitken has restrained his editing, wisely letting the letters speak. The first chapter is Vido's letters to Kamla as he gets ready to leave Trinidad, 1949­1950: "My stay in Trinidad is drawing to a close--I only have nine months left. Then I shall go away never to come back, as I trust.I think I am going to be either a big success or an unheard of failure." The next eight chapters are divided according to Oxford terms, from 1950 to 1953. The 10-page final chapter is Vido's letters after leaving Oxford, 1954­-1957, addressed to his widowed mother and to Kamla. Vido, the second eldest of Seeprasad's seven children, had a warm, synergetic relationship with his father. "Dear Everybody: What a delight to receive Pa's letter from home . He really writes extremely good letters." And from Seeprasad: "Your letters are charming in their spontaneity. If you could write me letters about things and people -- especially people -- at Oxford, I could compile them in a book: Letters Between A Father and Son, or My Oxford Letters." Vido to his father: "You know I can't write well. Not half as well as you. You manage a type of humour I cannot manage. Your view of life is surprisingly good-humored." Pa praises Vido's writing published in "Isis," the Oxford literary magazine. Vido: "When Palme Dutt, the half-Indian boss of the British Communist Party, came to Oxford, I gave him so much hell that the Communists

An insight into the mind of a genius

This book of correspondence between VS Naipaul who is a student in Oxford and his family who is in Trinidad and India is a fantastic insight into the mind of a genius in his early years. Unedited, these letters also afford a glimpse into the difficult life that Naipaul and his family led during his years at Oxford. In midst of an uncertain future, the self confidence and arrogance of VS Naipaul (18 years of age) stands in contrast to the humility and frustration of his father- both great writers in their own ways. It also helps us to understand the complexity of VS Naipaul's personality esp. as it relates to the embarrassing and difficult relationship between him and Paul Theroux. A fascinating book- a must read for every person who enjoys biographical literature....

Can understand Naipaul better

Reader's of Naipaul's works, especially his travel books, are intrigued by a variety of things: his genius for observing people and places, his rational perspectives, his dispassionate comments etc. At the same time, one wonders when did this real Naipaul evolve? This book, which is a compilation of his correspondences with his late father and elder sister, convinces one that Naipaul was always like this from a very young age: a gifted man. The elder Naipaul, despite his many troubles as a homemaker, deserves credit for instilling an intellectual atmosphere in his household; which obviously Vidia has run away with.

The Real Mr. Biswas?

The book offers insight into the life and thoughts of Naipaul and shows us a more personable side of the author, who seems to be on such a solo mission. Furthermore, we learn of his relationship to his father and the background of Naipaul's greatest character, Mohun Biswas. Naipaul's father was a true writer, a literature buff, unlike Biswas, who liked Marcus Aurelius and kept info in a Shakespeare that he may or may not have ever read. In letters, we don't see much of the temper or the actions of the character Biswas, but we see the meditations of the man who was his source. We also see VS Naipaul's transformation from West Indian student leaving the island for the first time, to a published author four years later. We read that "useless letter" that Naipaul describes in A House for Mr. Biswas, sent home following Biswas' death, and we learn all about the sympathy and respect that Naipaul had when writing this character. From this time on, he knew he would be a writer. He has longings and inklings towards India and Africa, he is already an anglophile with a strong rejection of coloured people, and an inclination to disassociate himself with these people, whom he finds ignorant and barbaric, a common criticism of his literature. There seems to show, in the uncommented upon letters, some of Naipaul's faults and prejudices and feelings of shortcomings, as a West Indian in England, as an outsider, always. But he never rejected his family, and was in fact a very sincere and loving brother and son. This is somewhat surprising considering the coldness that he sometimes can exude. His discussions of loneliness, of brotherhood and the need to take care of each other seem like preludes to stories from "In a Free State." Naipaul describes his life as an extention of his father's, fulfilled. And his father was already talking about writing an autobiography in the third person. Naipaul may have fulfilled this in Biswas, a fictional account. There is a hopefulness in Naipaul's letters that may not be as apparent in some of his later works, there is also the dark depression and dim view of the world and its inhabitants that is seen. His social attitudes and the way he writes about them shed more insight into his characters' social interactions as well. "The women I have known I have met quite by chance. Acquaintanceship is struck up almost unconsciously." This is similar to relationships that develop in Bend in the River and other books. Mostly, this is the development of the ideas of writing, the motivations, financial (primarily), emotionally. Both Naipauls saw writing as a profession, not a spiritual letting out of feelings or something, they approached writing professionally and with dignity, even in their letters, which they do critique. This book is a primary source of insight into the life and mind of one of the greatest writers of our time. I recommend it to any Naipaul enthusiast. Naipaul's liter

"Must" reading for all V.S. Naipaul fans.

V.S. Naipaul's Between Father And Son gathers family letters, revealing family interactions and a powerful drama with insights into Naipaul's formative years. Fans of Naipaul's writings will find this essential to understanding his works.
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