V. S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad in 1932 and emigrated to England in 1950, when he won a scholarship to University College, Oxford. He is the author of many novels, including A House for Mr. Biswas, A Bend in the River, and In a Free State, which won the Booker Prize. He has also written several nonfiction works based on his travels, including India: A Million Mutinies Now and Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples. He was knighted in 1990 and in 1993 was the first recipient of the David Cohen British Literature Prize.

The Writer and India

for David Pryce-Jones In concluding the first part of this article in the February 18 issue, V.S. Naipaul wrote, in part: “As a child trying to read, Ihad felt that two worlds separated me from the books that were offered to me at school and in the libraries: the …

Reading & Writing

for David Pryce-Jones “I have no memory at all. That’s one of the great defects of my mind: I keep on brooding over whatever interests me, by dint of examining it from different mental points of view I eventually see something new in it, and I alter its whole …

Indonesia: The Man of the Moment

Imaduddin was a lecturer in electrical engineering at the Bandung Institute of Technology. He was also an Islamic preacher. So in the 1960s and 1970s he was unusual: a man of science, one of the few in independent Indonesia, and at the same time a dedicated man of the faith.

A Way In the World

On my seventeenth birthday I became an acting second-class clerk in the Registrar-General’s Department. It was a filling-in job, between leaving school and going away to England, to the university; and it was one of the most hopeful times in my life. The Registrar-General’s Department was in the Red House, …

The End of Peronism?

V.S. Naipaul first traveled to Argentina for The New York Review in 1972, and his essays written over the next five years were later published as The Return of Eva Perón. The article that follows was written after he recently returned to Argentina. After fourteen years, I went again to …

Argentina: Living With Cruelty

In Argentina in March 1977, at the time of the military government’s “dirty war” against the guerrillas, I found myself taken off a long-distance bus by the police one day, and held for some hours as a suspected guerrilla. This was in the far north of the country—an older, more …

A Handful of Dust: Return to Guiana

In the early 1930s Evelyn Waugh traveled into the interior of British Guiana, on the old Spanish Main. There were three Guianas then, British, French, and Dutch, wedged between Venezuela and Brazil. British Guiana was the largest of the Guianas. It was 80,000 square miles, about the size of Great …

Our Universal Civilization

The following address was given at the Manhattan Institute in New York. I’ve given this talk the title of Our Universal Civilization. It is a rather big title, and I am a little embarrassed by it. I feel I should explain how it came about. I have no unifying theory …

The Shadow of the Guru

To awaken to history was to cease to live instinctively. It was to begin to see oneself and one’s group the way the outside world saw one; and it was to know a kind of rage. When I was there last year India was full of this rage. There had …

A Turn in Atlanta

I had been told that there was an old black elite in Atlanta, a kind of black American aristocracy; that there were many established black businessmen, and a number of black millionaires; and that blacks ran the city. I booked an airplane flight; in Atlanta stood in a line at …

Rednecks

Traveling in the South, I had the vaguest idea of what a redneck was. Someone intolerant and uneducated—that was what the word suggested. And it fitted in with what I had been told in New York: that some motoring organizations gave their members maps of safe routes through the South, …

On Being a Writer

I do not really know how I became a writer. I can give certain dates and certain facts about my career. But the process itself remains mysterious. It is mysterious, for instance, that the ambition should have come first—the wish to be a writer, to have that distinction, that fame—and …

The Ceremony of Farewell

On the morning of my last day in Germany, in West Berlin, I went to the Egyptian Museum. I returned to Wiltshire to the news that my younger sister, Sati, had had a brain hemorrhage in Trinidad that day: just at the time I was leaving the museum. She was …

Among the Republicans

Dallas was air-conditioned—hotels, shops, houses, cars. The convention center was more than air-conditioned; it was positively cool, more than thirty degrees cooler than the temperature outside. Air-conditioned Dallas seemed to me a stupendous achievement, the product of a large vision, American in the best and most humane way: money and applied science creating an elegant city where life had previously been brutish. Yet in this city created by high science Dr. Criswell preached of hellfire and was a figure. And the message of convention week was that there was no contradiction, that American endeavor and success were contained within old American faith and pieties.

A Note on a Borrowing by Conrad

“The Return” (in Tales of Unrest, 1898) is an early story by Conrad. It is about 20,000 words long, and Conrad worked on it for four or five tormenting months in 1897. The labor was not really rewarded. “The Return” was too long and too difficult for the magazines Edward …

Tehran Winter

There was snow on the mountains to the north of Tehran. Morning light, falling on the snow, revealed the direction and line of every ridge. Then the smog of the city of motor cars banked up and screened the mountains. In the summer the smog had been like the color …

Argentine Terror: A Memoir

This article was written in May 1977 after a visit to Buenos Aires and the north of Argentina. Little has changed. The Falcons no longer operate, but the terror continues. Inflation rages on: Argentina is no longer cheap for the visitor. The poor are screaming; but the rich have become …

The Flight from the Fire

I could say that I was in London, but—new to Europe, just arrived from my African river town—I didn’t really know where I was. I had no means of grasping the city. I knew only that I was in the Gloucester Road. My hotel was there, my friend Nazruddin’s flat …

Indian Art and Its Illusions

The Mughal empire in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was splendid, the richest empire of its time, sucking in even the gold of Spanish America; and Mughal art had its admirers from the start. At the von Hirsch sale in London last year there was Rembrandt’s copy of, or variation …

India: Renaissance or Continuity?

Gandhi lived too long. Returning to India from South Africa in 1915, at the age of forty-five, holding himself aloof from the established politicians of the time, involving himself with communities and groups hitherto untouched by politics, taking up purely local causes here and there (a land tax, a mill …

India: Paradise Lost

“We are like a zoo,” the melancholy middle-class lady said in Delhi. “Perhaps we should charge.” She lived in India: I was a visitor. She intended a rebuke, possibly an insult, but it was easy to let it pass. India was like a zoo because India was poor and cruel …

India: Synthesis and Mimicry

At a dinner party in Delhi, a young foreign academic, describing what was most noticeable about the crowds he had seen in Bombay on his Indian holiday, said with a giggle: “They were doing their ‘potties’ on the street.” He was adding to what his Indian wife had said with …

India: A Defect of Vision

In 1888, when he was nineteen, and already married for six years, Gandhi went to England to study law. It was a brave thing to do. Not the English law—which, however alien to a Hindu of 1888, however unconnected with his complicated rites and his practice of magic, could be …

India: New Claim on the Land

The engineer who had introduced me to the squatters’ settlement in Bombay was also working on a cooperative irrigation scheme up on the Deccan plateau, some miles southeast of Poona. In India, where nearly everything waits for the government, a private scheme like this, started by farmers on their own, …

Bombay: The Skyscrapers and the Chawls

It is said that every day 1,500 more people, about 350 families, arrive in Bombay to live. They come mainly from the countryside and they have very little; and in Bombay there isn’t room for them. There is hardly room for the people already there. The older apartment blocks are …

The Wounds of India

“India will go on,” the novelist R. K. Narayan had said in 1961. And for the peasants of Bihar or Bundi with their knowledge of karma, India was going on; the Hindu equilibrium still held. They were as removed from the Emergency in 1975 as Narayan himself had been from …

India: A Wounded Civilization

Sometimes old India, the old, eternal India many Indians like to talk about, does seem just to go on. During the last war some British soldiers, who were training in chemical warfare, were stationed in the far south of the country, near a thousand-year-old Hindu temple. The temple had a …

A New King for the Congo

The Congo, which used to be a Belgian colony, is now an African kingdom and is called Zaire. It appears to be a nonsense name, a sixteenth-century Portuguese corruption, some Zairois will tell you, of a local word for “river.” So it is as if Taiwan, reasserting its Chinese identity, …