V.B. Naipaul is a prolific writer who has published twenty—six books in all: thirteen books of fiction and thirteen books on non-fiction. He belongs to no 'nationality’, though he was born in Trinidad and follows no religion, certainly not the religion of his ancestors. He is an unbeliever, a rationalist and a free thinker. He travels from country to country, observes the social life of people and writes about his experiences of social realities in a terse and effective prose style. The Swedish Academy awards him the Nobel Prize for writing about “peripheral people" with ’suppressed histories’.
A close reading of Naipaul’s writings shows that Naipaul is primarily concerned with displaced individuals, with uprooted immigrants without ’home’ but longing for home all the same. Mr. Biswas seems to be his representative character. Though he owns a house, he always lives in a ’unhoused' condition created by social and political forces and his own personal compulsions.
In fact, Naipual writes about his "childhood experiences' mostly in an autobiographical mode of representation. Though critics divide his writings in fiction and non-fiction, Naipaul obliterates the borderline between the two. The Nobel Prize Committee also notes this point. It praises his distinct style in which ’the customary distinctions between fiction and non—fiction are of subordinate importance Here we are safe to say that Naipual is an autobiographical writer.
Naipaul, as he himself has said, seems to be a rootless child. His parents and relatives belong to India but they never discussed Indian history and culture. India remains ’an area of darkness’ to him. He travels all over India time and again, meets people and politician, writers and industrialist and documents his experiences of existing Indian society and culture in his travel writings. His three travel writings, therefore, may be considered as a valuable critique of modern Indian culture.
I am pleased to note that V.S. Patel has chosen An Area of Darkness, India: A wounded Civilization and India: A Million Mutinies Now for his doctoral study which he now publishes in the form of a book consisting of nine chapters. He begins with drawing Naipaul’s biographical sketch to establish the relationship between his life and these three and other writings. His second chapter is very important in the sense that he explores Naipaul’s sensibility in detail. Naipual’s rootless childhood, his environs and his expatriate experiences in London influence his sensibility and with this sensibility, he explores and interprets the existing Indian culture.
An Area of Darkness, Naipual’s first book on India, invites the anger of many Indian scholars and critics. Mr. Patel reconsiders the viewpoints of different critics and offers his objective assessment of this travel writing. He appreciates Naipaul’s honesty and sincerity in recording his experience of Indian society
India: A Wounded Civilisation is a very controversial book. Naipaul traces the static condition of Indian culture, which hinders the very process of modernisation. Mr. Patel comments on Sudhir Kakkar’s interpretation of Indian culture in terms of underdeveloped ego and compares it with Naipaul’s perception of Indian culture. He himself is largely one with Naipaul and submits that Indian culture and consciousness is severely attacked by the onslaught of westernisation. He quotes Sri Aurobindo to substantiate his viewpoint.
Mr. Patel’s analysis of India: A Million Mutinies Now is remarkable. He thoroughly examines socio-political forces that threatens the very existence of Indian democracy and secularism in India. In addition, he analyses the style of Naipaul’s non-fiction. His observation is apt and largely acceptable: 'Compression or brevity is Naipaul’s forte. What other writers may narrate in a dozen of pages Naipaul’s can do in just a paragraph or a page. Naipaul uses minimum sentences to produce maximum effect.
In short, Mr. Patel’s book on Naipaul’s nonfiction on India is comprehensive and effective. It is in no way laudatory; it points out the drawbacks of Naipual’s misunderstanding of Indian leaders, be he Gandhiji or Jay Prakash Narayan. His fifth chapter, ’Some Errors in Naipaul’s Observations on India', is very insightful and factual.
I believe that this book will be of much use to teachers, students and all those persons who are interested in understanding Indian culture as it exists today.
V.S. Naipaul a prolific writer is one of the most popular writers writing in English today. His novels have won almost every award on the English Literary scene. He has been praised unambiguously by many critics for the high excellence achieved in the fiction and non-fiction writing. He is a writer with about 25 books to his credit. He has been waiting in the anteroom for the Nobel Prize for Literature. One of his recent books Half A Life published in 2000 is nominated for the Booker Prize, the distinction which he already won in 1971 for his In A Free State. It is a matter of pride for him that he has replaced Salman Rushdie for the Booker Prize.
Naipaul's non-fiction works An Area of Darkness and India: A Wounded civilization have met with hostility and unwarranted criticism. But both these books and The Overcrowded Barracoon constitute important insights into India.
Here is an humble attempt at assessing the merits and demerits of Naipaul’s books on India with the tool of critical analysis and in the contexts of the critical opinions of the recognised critics. He presents the panorama of his belief and ideas on India and Indians through a close examination of a sample of Indo-Anglican literary works of celebrity. In 1990, Naipaul published yet another book on India, India: A Million Mutinies Now which has compelled me to include it in my study as it was another landmark. In this book Naipaul has changed his earlier views. The book suggests a further engagement with India. Naipaul’s relationship with India, his ancestral past, brings us to the nucleus. It is a book of struggle. Naipaul claims that he has made a return journey in India: A Million Mutinies Now and has rejected the colonial gaze. The inclusion of the book delayed the work and created some more problems for me.
The examination of Naipaul’s views on India and Indian culture leads to the complex problem of identity Naipaul’s sensibility is complex, one. His is a triple identity. He is a descendent of an Indian Brahmin originally migrated as an indentured labourer. He is a West Indian by birth and growth in Trinidad. Finally, he is an expatriate in London living in self chosen exile. In an attempt to define Naipaul’s sensibility, we must keep in mind these three sociological forces. Hence, there is first the analysis of Naipaul’s complex personality.
For an apt evaluation of Naipaul’s India, it is necessary to grasp the real spirit, the essence of India. It is not possible to give one and only answer to the question. What is Naipaul’s India. Naipaul’s is a position of an "insider— outsider" and so he is closer to the discovery of the essence of India. It is my humble endeavour to establish the presence of both Hindu self and a Western self in Naipaul.
Naipaul examines India by the Hindu norms 0f karma, dharma and moksha as well as the Western norms of individuality and freedom of challenge. Despite the occasional confusions of these two selves Naipaul’s analysis clarifies that his negative views on India come from neither arrogance nor malice. Naipaul does feel pain and not contempt at the sorry plight of India in its million mutinies. Naipaul, it appears has total involvement in its present million mutinies because he has returned to his ancestral past. The unaccommodating nature of Naipaul’s approach to India, Indian life and culture is perfectly commensurate with a deep emotional response to the country.
The hook begins with narrating the scope and parameters of inquiry into the problems of Naipaul’s views on India and Indian culture. Then, it proceeds to analyse Naipaul’s views on India in terms of its present predicament. Also, efforts are made to analyse the style and the narrative techniques of his work. In the conclusion different threads of arguments are interwoven.
I thank Dr. Mishra, Prof. and Head, Department of English, S.I’. University Vallabh Vidyanagar for writing foreword of the book in a very short time.
I would like to acknowledge my debt to Dr. J.H. Khan, Dr. R.K. Mandalia, Dr. Piyush Joshi and Shri Pranav Dave, the members of the P.G. Department of English who always provided homely atmosphere with their friendly gestures for completion of the book.
I am deeply indebted to the friends, scholars and my colleagues in the college and RG. Department of English, North Gujarat University for helping me one way or the other for offering admirable suggestions at different stages of my work. I also wish to express my thanks to librarians of the North Gujarat University, Patan, Sardar Patel University, Vallabh Vidyanagar, Jaykar Library of Poona University, as well as British Council Library of Poona and Ahmedabad, for permitting to use their holdings. I thank the librarian of Shri & Smt. P.K. Kotawala Arts College, Patan for rendering me prompt services whenever I needed.
I express my heartfelt sense of gratitude to Standard Publishers (India), New Delhi for bringing out this book within a very short time. At the time of publication I express my gratitude to late Bhaichandbhai for providing inspiration for the work. I also cannot forget the members of my family, particularly my son late Dipesh for sharing the moments of joy and sorrows and for looking after my health and other personal and official hazards.
From the Jacket:
The book "V.S. Naipaul's India - A Reflection" is an interesting and comprehensive analysis of India presented by V.S. Naipaul, a Nobel laureate in his books An Area of Darkness, India - A Wounded Civilization and India - Million Mutiries Now. This book reflects the views and approach of V.S. Naipaul to Indian Life and Culture. The book presents a remarkable and thorough socio-political analysis. The book also gives an analysis of V.S. Naipaul's style.
The Swedish Academy awards him the Nobel Prize for writing about 'Peripheral People' with 'suppressed histories'. The book shows that he is primarily concerned with displaced individuals, with uprooted immigrants without 'home' but longing for home.
This book thoroughly examines socio-political forces that threaten the very existence of Indian democracy and secularism in India. In addition, his observation is apt and largely expectable. What other writers may narrate in a dozen of pages Naipaul's can do in just a paragraph or a page. Naipaul uses minimum sentences to produce maximum effect.
In short, this book on Naipaul's non-fiction on India is comprehensive and effective. It is in no way laudatory, it points out the drawbacks of Naipaul's misunderstanding of Indian leaders, be he Gandhiji or Jay Prakash Narayan. Fifth Chapter, 'Some Errors in Naipaul's Observations on India' is very insightful and factual.
This book will be useful for the teachers, students and all those who are interested in understanding V.S. Naipaul and Indian Culture of today.
About the Author:
Dr. Vasant S. Patel M.A. Ph.D. (English) has been teaching English to undergraduate students since 1969 and post graduate students since 1978. He has been a Ph.D. guide in English in Hemchandracharya North Gujarat University for the last two years. He has been a member of the Board of studies in English, a member of the Faculty of Arts, a member of the Academic Council and Chairman of the Board of studies in English of Hemchandracharya North Gujarat University.
Dr. Vasant S. Patel presented various Research papers at National and International Seminars and Conferences which were published in various Periodicals and Journals of repute. He is a member of senate of the Hemachandracharya North Gujarat University and a life member of Indian Society for Common Wealth Studies and Association of Indian College Principals.
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