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David RieffNaipaul does not consider himself just a writer, but something grander and more ambitious. His stated project is "fitting one civilization to another." And he ranges far. The subjects in his new book include Flaubert's relation to antiquity in his historical novel Salammbo, the classical Roman historians, Buddhism, and the history of the British empire, as well as memoirs of writers who influenced him, like his fellow Trinidadian (and fellow Nobel Prize winner) Derek Walcott; the British novelist Anthony Powell, who befriended Naipaul a few years after what he sardonically refers to as "my bright boy's scholarship" got him to Oxford, and whom Naipaul repays with an extremely unflattering portrait; and the great Indian memoirist Nirad Chaudhuri. The result is a bracing, erudite ride, but also a bumpy one.
—The New York Times