Between Father and Son: Family Lettersby V. S. Naipaul
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 the one he yearned to leave behind. Separated from his family by continents, and grappling with depression, financial strain, loneliness, and dislocation,… See more details below
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 the one he yearned to leave behind. Separated from his family by continents, and grappling with depression, financial strain, loneliness, and dislocation, "Vido" bridged the distance with a faithful correspondence that began shortly before the young man's two-week journey to England and ended soon after his father's death four years later.
Here, for the first time, we have the opportunity to read this profoundly moving correspondence, which illuminates with unalloyed candor the relationship between a sacrificing father and his determined son as they encourage each other to persevere with their writing. For though his father's literary aspirations would go unrealized, Naipaul's triumphant career would ultimately vindicate his beloved mentor's legacy.
Time Out New York
The New York Times
"A telling portrait of the artist as a young man [and] a fascinating map to the autobiographical underpinnings of what is arguably Mr. Naipaul's finest novel, A House for Mr. Biswas."- Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"A narrative that never palls: We are enthralled as by a compelling epistolary novel."- The Washington Post Book World
"Shocking...Captivating...The Naipaul family letters speak eloquently of loneliness and deracination, but at the heart of the book is a very moving story about becoming a writer."- The Boston Globe
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
- Publication date:
Read an Excerpt
Your letter of September 17 we got yesterday. It has made me both happy and -- to some extent sad. I thought that when Simbhoo arrived he would be bringing you and Boysie cheer; that he would make the place a little more like home, with jokes and sightseeing and so on. I should not mind if letters do not come very frequently sometimes. You say Kamla has not written you; and Kamla says you have not written her. You write her and try to be kind in your letter. Kamla is only too anxious to hear from you as well as to write you. She probably did not know your address.
I have not failed with my developing outfit. The very first try was a success. I cannot enclose photos with this or else I would have shown you specimens. One photo of my developing I have sent to Kamla. It is Shivan and Baido. A cute little snap. What I need now is a printer -- you know, the equipment on which negatives are printed. Another humbug lies in the fact that I cannot get the right printing paper. Johnsons of Hendon Ltd, London, NW4, have plastic printing frames; more than this, they carry what
they call a new Exactum Printer; also they stock gas-light printing paper of all grades. On this paper printing can be done with daylight. They are very cheap. See if you can send a few packets for me, for negatives, size 120. Also contact printing paper, grades vigorous, soft and normal. Tell the people the kind of camera I have, and they should give you the right stuffs for printing.
The Guardian paid me only $5 for the two Ramadhin pictures; and five dollars for the story in the Sunday Guardian. Before these I think I got$3 for the uncle-aunt picture that came out in the sports page of TG. But my rice-growing story in the Weekly carried four pictures. They should bring me in at least $12, but of course you never know with these people.
I have not heard anything further on your poem. You know it has been sent up to London by Mrs Lindo. And I haven't heard more about 'Obeah' and 'The Engagement', which, like your poem, have been sent up; and acknowledged as having been received and retained for possible future broadcasting. Wait and see.
Your writings are all right. I have no doubt whatever that you will be a great writer; but do not spoil yourself: beware of undue dissipation of any kind. I do not mean you must be a puritan. A pity you spent some money badly re meeting Simbhoo; but such things will happen. It was gratifying to hear you could send us some money but everything is all right just now. Are you keeping a savings account? Yes, I think you do; I think you mentioned the fact in a previous letter. S. used to also say some such things to Rudranath when the latter had won his scholarship. I remember S's spirited objection and umbrage. You keep your centre. You are on the way to being an intellectual. He is only stating a fact. Acknowledge it mentally as such. Say, 'Thanks.'
I never had so much work as I am having nowadays. I hope I shall be able to keep up. I am no longer on the Evening News. They have shifted me to the Guardian. Since last Monday -- General Election day -- I have been working, at a stretch almost, from early morning to late night -- nine and ten at nights. Don't see how I can find the time to do features for the Weekly. Even this letter I write at a snatch. I was asked to write a feature on faith-healing at about 12.30 yesterday; and I had to turn out the stuff first thing in the morning. The faith-healer's meeting that I was to describe actually never finished till midnight. This was last night. But I have turned in the story. What is strange is that I think it will be a good story -- snappily written.
I like your decision to write weekly. I think I can easily manage writing once a fortnight providing the air-letter form is at hand! And providing that the letter, having been written, gets posted!
I haven't bought the tyre. It will get bought when it comes to my not being able to go out -- unless I had one. Like buying the battery. Let us know what is happening. Tell me about the fate of the poems you have sent in, and the stories. And don't worry about anybody or anything here.
No fear; we received all your letters. Only I find they took a long time in the coming. Once three letters, differently dated, came in a batch. Altogether we've got seven letters from you from the day you left home; plus a cable.
No harm in kissing a girl, so long you do not become too prone for that sort of thing.
Love from everybody,
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >