Between Father and Son: Family Letters

Between Father and Son: Family Letters


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Between Father and Son: Family Letters by 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 was 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 the 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375707261
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/13/2001
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.68(d)

About the Author

V.S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad in 1932. He went to England on a scholarship in 1950.  After four years at Oxford he began to write, and since then he has followed no other profession.  He is the author of more than twenty books of fiction and nonfiction and the recipient of numerous honors, including the Booker Prize in 1971 and a knighthood for services to literature n 1990. He lives in Wiltshire, England.


Wiltshire, England

Date of Birth:

August 17, 1932

Place of Birth:

Chaguanas, Trinidad


Queen's Royal College, Trinidad, 1943-48; B.A., University College, Oxford, 1953

Read an Excerpt

Home, 9/22/50

Dear Son,

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,

Table of Contents

Family Treesxiii
ISeptember 21, 1949--September 22, 1950: Port of Spain to Oxford1
IIOctober 5, 1950--January 1, 1951: First Term at Oxford21
IIIJanuary 1, 1951--April 11, 1951: Lent Term, Easter Vacation47
IVApril 14, 1951--September 13, 1951: Spring Term, Long Vacation81
VSeptember 20, 1951--January 8, 1952: Michaelmas Term, Christmas Vacation117
VIJanuary 16, 1952--April 4, 1952: Lent Term, Easter Vacation139
VIIApril 21, 1952--September 28, 1952: Spring Term, Long Vacation169
VIIIOctober 3, 1952--August 8, 1953: Final Year199
IXAugust 10, 1953--December 8, 1953: Family Tragedy245
Postscript: May 3, 1954--June 20, 1957 The Writer275
Bibliography of Published Works289

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