An intimate portrait of that rarest and most fragile of alliances, a literary friendship. In this personal account Theroux recalls his relationship with Vidia and how their positions were frequently reversed as they became each other's editors, confidants and teachers.
Throughout, Theroux describes an unmooring needed to observe and write, his mostly via travel and Naipaul’s due to lack of belonging to any particular culture. The artist Andrew Wyeth is an example of one who did not ever physically leave home, yet was deeply observant of life and the human experience. Wyeth did, though, unmoor himself from the artist father that he loved deeply, his work was a rejection and surpassing of his father’s work.
At its essence, this book is about that unmooring, the story of a son coming to terms with his relationship to his “father.”
The friendship began in Uganda when Theroux was a young man longing to be a writer. Naipaul believed in him, challenged him, demanded of him, and gave him what he needed to become the writer he became. Theroux doesn’t realize he has outgrown the relationship until Naipaul rejects him, and thereby frees him. And then Theroux writes this book, describing his journey in Vidia’s shadow, finally voicing his own reality.
Theroux closes with: “I was dazed, because I was liberated at last. I saw how the end of a friendship was the start of an understanding. He had made me his by choosing me; his rejection of me meant I was on my own, out of his shadow. He had freed me, he had opened my eyes. . . “
This book opened with the ending, as well: “It is a good thing that time is a light, because so much of life is mumbling shadows and the future is just silence and darkness. But time passes, time’s torch illuminates, it finds connections, it makes sense of confusion, it reveals the truth.”