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V S Naipaul (An Anthology of 21st Century Criticism)

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Item Code: NAS279
Author: Ajay K. Chaubey and Manjit Inder Singh
Publisher: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2015
ISBN: 9788126919048
Pages: 316
Other Details 9.00 X 5.50 inch
Weight 490 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, the first Nobel Laureate in Literature of the twenty-first century, has occupied a coveted place on the zenith of literary circles in the world. He dexterously contextualises and situates matter and manner, text and context, history and politics of culture and civilisation of the postcolonial globe. His fictional and travel narratives have narrated the un-narrated polemics of the post-imperial societies. The whole corpus of his works includes not only his physical exploration of nation-state but it also divulges unearthing of his "self". Naipaul juxtaposes geo-political locations and multi-ethnic themes through his characters who tell the tale of ex-colony through the rubric of Eurocentric standards. Therefore, Naipaul is not merely a simple author but also a powerful subject, both a subject of enunciation and a subject enunciated.

The present volume offers a fresh perspective on V S Naipaul which contains seventeen scholarly papers that traverse through his literary taxonomy and bring out an incisive criticism. The papers reflect profoundly upon his fiction and non-fiction within the theoretical eidos of 'postcolonialism', 'orientalism', 'gender theory', 'diaspora', and 'travel theory'. Each essay closely scrutinises and puts forth the insights of multiple themes that Naipaul adeptly deals with. The essays collectively corroborate that Naipaul's works are difficult to study without some supportive criticism. Hence, the synchronic reality of the anthology may make an attempt to suffice its goal.

The book will be useful for the students and teachers of English literature, and researchers in this field.

About the Author

Ajay K. Chaubey shares his knowledge and experience in the Department of Sciences and Humanities, National Institute of Technology (NIT), Uttarakhand with a doctoral degree on V.S. Naipaul. Previously he was associated with Mody Institute of Technology and Science (Deemed University), Lakshmangarh, Sikar (Rajasthan), and BBDNITM, a constituent college of Babu Banarasi Das University, Lucknow (UP). He is the Special Editions Editor for a volume on Indian Diaspora in the Literaria: An International Journal of New Literatures Across the World (Jan-Dec, 2013), published by Bahri Publications, New Delhi. His academic interests include Travel theory and literature, the Literature of the Indian Diaspora, Caribbean fiction, and Postcolonial theory and literature. After V.S.Naipaul, he is engaged in exploring discernible studies on Selman Rushdie, M.G. Vassanji and Literature of the Global Diaspora. Dr. Chaubey is a born diasporic as he came into being in Surat (Gujarat) and was raised in Bailie (UP) and has travelled extensively in the major cities of Northern India as a teacher, trainer, and taught to widen the horizon of knowledge and to sharpen his intellect. Moreover, he has qualified Uttarakhand-SLET (2012) and Rajasthan-SLET (2012) in maiden attempts.


During my rather long and chequered critical engagement with V.S. Naipaul since the late seventies-his fiction, non-fiction, travelogues, memoirs, letters, interviews, and the enormous body of criticism-I have felt that reading and intellectually `travelling' with Naipaul's alternating views about issues and writing beg many compulsive responses. One of these-and indeed a significant one-is that one has to see his achievement and enviable reputation as a creator of 'worlds' (the ones to which he belongs, and others into which he has peregrined) on his own terms. Any detours, deflections and indirect enlargements, creatively or critically, bring back the reader to the core of what his experiential insights and politics of belonging (or otherwise) have become the stuff of his writing. I had hastened to add in k the Foreword to my own book on Naipaul more than fifteen years back, that he becomes a 'companion and a burden' that one carries around everywhere, following his own perception about himself as a writer who belongs 'nowhere and everywhere'. Indeed, what has been remarkable in relation to Naipaul's creation of his fictional universe, and his continuous autobiographical register in his works, is the translation of a unique journey and experience into a discourse that re-inscribes his own, and older, historical journey patterns from India to Caribbean to Europe, and beyond. As a writer from a dislocated, disturbed and itinerant culture, Naipaul has carried within him the scars, memories, the inextricable and intertwined strands of human transitions and the challenges involved in 'enigmas of arrivals', turning them into relationships with wider historical shifts and movements-from Empire, imperialism, colonialism, creation of diasporas and floating communities across the world. Together with this, there are the Saidian contrapuntal movements, strains and troubled affiliations between and in-between, of centre- periphery, colony-metropolis, the powerful and the powerless, the oppressors and the oppressed in addition to many other juxtapositions and connotations resulting from any number of accidents of fate and time-underlining what we have today in the form of global culture of hybridization and hyphenations-a world on the move, accelerating in its speed the mixture of culture, histories, traditions and literary languages as well.

One has only to recollect the undefined journey of Salim in A Bend in the River, moving to a central Africa monumentalizing ancient and modern 'passages' of change and incursions, or Ralph Singh's transformative as well as self-critical memoir-writing in The Mimic Men about the shipwrecked Hindu indentured community, the memorable cast of characters in In a Free State, people struggling and groping for freedom, attempting an abortive autonomy against all odds in alien and hostile landscapes. Or for that matter, his whole painful, meditative and intellectual journey-pattern in The Enigma of Arrival in the middle of decay, change and the dialectics of personal and literary development, against the unusual classical setting of a surrealist painting, something Naipaul has stated in different forms and styles elsewhere. His own accounts of a writer's formation, his burdens of experience-personal and impersonal-his sense of weariness and ennui, are in a way, also the trajectories of his developing or shaping vision. The struggle to find a purpose, meaning, order, even a way to understand the impacts of one's biological, ancestral, cultural, communal, religious and ethnic fall-backs, continues to be the thematic and experiential residues of his work, as late as Half a Life and Magic Seeds. Naipaul's 'legacy', his 'special calling' has arguably affected the post-colonial literary culture, in the sense that contemporary writing oscillates between a quest for interpreting one's diasporic roots and identity, finding one's way in the culturally fragmented world, while writing, more than ever before, reserves a right to narrate, to be heard, to communicate the lives and memories of people forgotten by history, their voices silenced by more powerful and menacing forces. At this point of time when Naipaul's works go back to nearly fifty-five years, and when awards and fame are behind him, there is a Naipaul curiously divided between admirers and detractors.


V.S. Naipaul: An Embodiment of Controversy and Scholarship

"...Naipaul has become Sir V.S. Naipaul, an extremely famous and, it must be said, very talented writer whose_ novels and non-fiction (mostly travel books) have established his reputation as one of the truly celebrated, justly well-known figures in world literature today."

-Edward Said

"Naipaul's particular notion of the value of writing is central to his understanding of the world and himself in it."

-Neil ten Kortenaar

"Sir Vidia's construction of the Indian nation, his views on certain major episodes in contemporary history, his interpretation of Islam, and the role of minorities in secular India have always been controversial." -Mushirul Hasan Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul is one of the prolific authors of the twentieth century and now of the twenty-first. His prowess on history, culture, civilization and ethnicity-a journalistic approach to unearth the past-has been appreciated by his critics too. He has been successful not merely by being a good author but also by producing a diatribe against "third world countries"-Trinidad, a place of his birth and India, a place of his ancestors-both of which he has often described as `half-baked societies' that have dragged him to be the butt of controversies. Shobhaa De remarks on his velitations, "Naipaul has fed off controversy all his life. He is an 'agent provocateur' and a brilliant one at that."1 Naipaul's erudition, his faculty of criticism and brush with literary vendetta are outré. His willingness to disparage, all that he encounters, has not won him many friends but the simplistic and near-universal assertions of an unswerving heart-felt racism and Orientalist chauvinism seldom undergo close scrutiny. Most of criticism of his works is trivial, hopelessly ignorant to the complexity of his tortured negotiations with his own post-coloniality. Naipaul's permanent estrangement is expressed through a series of surprisingly different and amazingly defective narrators who are placed in an astonishingly similar succession of "chronotopes".

One finds that his novels present "a postcolonial dilemma for us" (Bhattacharya 245). His corpus of fiction manoeuvers his autobiographical information that recounts his historical, socio-cultural and political affairs. He coalesces biography and history in his writings to make his subject matter tangible and substantial. Fawzia Mustafa may appropriately be quoted here, "...Naipaul's use of biographical information in his writing constructs an over-determined relation between notions of the Author and the multiple usage of what is called the colonial subject" (Mustafa 13). The same incorporation has made him a world famous author who juxtaposes eulogy and elegy of the world that gives him countless prizes.

Again, he is the only living author who has bagged almost all the prestigious awards and his "name spells almost endless accolades" (Singh 19) which include a few: the Booker Prize in 1971 for In a Free State, the Knighthood in 1990 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001 for his corpus of literary works. He has also received literary awards like the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize (1958), the Somerset Maugham Award (1960), Phoenix Trust Award (1962)2, the Bennet Award (1980), the Jerusalem Prize (1983), the T.S. Eliot Award (1986) for Creative Writing3, the David Cohen Prize (the first recipient) given for his 'lifetime' achievement in British Literature (1993). He was shortlisted along with Mahasweta Devi from India and Alice Munro from Canada for The Man Booker International Prize in 2009, which is awarded every two years and given to the living author whose works are available in almost every language of the world. Naipaul, as is well known, was often given grants to travel and document his experiences, as he "writes about a racially complex world with all the compassion and insight which is missing in some of his public pronouncements."

V.S. Naipaul, who was born in 1932 and lived in Trinidad till 1950, is the only author in the world who has mapped the whole trajectory of the post-colonial civilization and has beautifully painted the literary canvas in multiple hues that reflect his ambivalent relationship with the world he lives in. His maiden travelogue, The Middle Passage (1962), the upshot of his revisit to Trinidad, his birthplace, was written on a fund from the Government of Trinidad. In this modern travel narrative, he has "created a deft and remarkably prescient portrait of Trinidad and four adjacent Caribbean societies-British Guiana, Suriname, Martinique, and Jamaica."5 Both his fiction and non-fiction usually deal with the individuals trying to preserve their wholeness in terms of individuality while they are "functioning as cogs in the wheels of a social structure" (White 1). His revisit to Trinidad was prolific on the creative front but he is a man divorced from his Caribbean roots-the purist made nauseous by filth and flesh, or the racist who has "forgotten" his own family's sojourn in the cane fields of the New World.

Naipaul's roots lie in the routes of the world. After Trinidad, he looked towards the East to come to terms with the land of his ancestors. His visits to India resulted in the publication of An Area of Darkness (1964) that created a hullabaloo in the media and academia. His sojourn provided him with a splendid opportunity to learn about Indian classics that presented him untold tales of Indian legacy that he had often received from his "Gold Teeth Nanee". The "new discovery" of India was a contortion for natives as it was called "an area of 'defecation.'" The non-fiction works of Naipaul are a touchstone for what is happening in every ex-colony of the post-colonial world.

Naipaul did not discontinue writing about India after An Area of Darkness. His thirst for the Indian subcontinent was and, to date, remains unquenchable. After the same, Naipaul published two subsequent travelogues on India-India: A Wounded Civilization (1977) and India: A Million Mutinies Now (1990). The former was Naipaul's dialogue on post-colonial civilization and records "India at the time of Indira Gandhi's State of Emergency" (Nixon 13), while the latter describes his perspectives on contemporary and multicultural politics and in many ways "(the) most ambiguous work" (Ibid). His travelogues-from The Middle Passage (1962) to The Masque of Africa: Glimpses in African Belief (2010)-investigate Naipaul's 'self', map the trail of history, narrate the politics of society but "...totally ignore a massive infusion of critical scholarship...." (Said 53). Thus, one can say that V.S. Naipaul has identified the strange emotional and sophisticated contortions that bind together culturally, in an ambiguously globalized world-as he investigates not only Trinidad, Africa and India but also the countries like USA in A Turn in the South (1989) which describes his racialized thinking in the context of the southern part of America.

Naipaul is an author whose works are often the subject of many disputes among the critics of contemporary literary landscape. This controversial writer has divided the critics into binaries-some praise him as one of the most gifted authors of these days; the others blame him for "racial arrogance" (White 2). He is known as an author, who is either loved and admired, or renounced. After all, there is one thing that most of the critics concur on and it is a fact that Naipaul is the master of observation and depiction who always provides his reader with very sophisticated descriptions. He belongs to the lineage of authors whose works are primarily focused on the post-colonial countries, their present situation and the impact of colonialism on identity of individuals. His Indian genesis, Trinidadian nativity and British citizenship allow him to see India and Indian people from a considerably different perspective. He is an "insider" as well as "outsider" to India (Rai 16). Through his Indian ancestry he can see the country from a very intimate point of view; this kind of double perspective makes it more difficult for him to understand his own feelings and reactions in some of the situations that he has to face in India, especially when he realizes his own strangeness. Sometimes he himself seems surprised by the revelation of his merits or demerits that he was not aware of. For him, the cognition of India is simultaneously the discovery of himself. His Trinidadian childhood, Indian origin and the residency in London make his position in the world highly indeterminate. He fully identifies with none of these countries. He rather sees himself as a blend of the three cultures.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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