The enigma of arrival : a novel

by V. S. Naipaul

Hardcover, 1987




New York : Knopf, 1987.


The story of a writer's singular journey-from one place to another, from the British colony of Trinidad to the ancient countryside of England, and from one state of mind to another-this is perhaps Naipaul's most autobiographical work. Yet it is also woven through with remarkable invention to make it a rich and complex novel.

Media reviews

The book lacks the bitter taste of some of his recent writing, but it is one of the saddest books I have read in a long while, its tone one of unbroken melancholy. After an interesting, and courageous, account of his formation as a writer, Naipaul returns to his Wiltshire microcosm, and it turns
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out that his narrator's exhaustion and turning-towards-death is mirrored in his tiny world...All this is evoked in delicate, precise prose of the highest quality, but it is bloodless prose.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member jwhenderson
The Enigma of Arrival is one of V. S. Naipaul's masterpieces. In it he brilliantly conveys the atmosphere of the English countryside as the narrator meditates on his original journey from Trinidad to England. The feeling of the place is palpable and the evocation of place is underlined by the
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physical effects and the history of the people and their artifacts. Through the mind of the narrator we experience the fictional reality of the world-a world of Naipaul's making. This seems a quiet book, but a powerful one.
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LibraryThing member whitewavedarling
Quiet--relaxing--a nice break. If you're looking for a relaxing read through the English countryside, I recommend this. It's also a really interesting look at writers and writing; if you're interested in country house literature, writing, or transcontinental ideas of literature, I highly recommend
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LibraryThing member William345
Just a note here. I've read this book twice and have an observation that I haven't come across elsewhere. In short it is that there is a vertiginous aspect to Naipaul's descriptions of landscape here. I never have a stable sense of the world around the narrator, but one that is always off-kilter,
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if not spinning. This is something that I've come across in none of Naipaul's other books, all of which I've read.
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LibraryThing member tallpaul
Barely disguised autobiography marred by an overweening solipsism, for all the quality and precision of the writing. It as if the characters (and places) of the book exist for the narrator only when his gaze falls upon them, or he finds himself in need of something; their lives outside the narrow
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space inside his head exist only as muffled details.
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LibraryThing member m.belljackson
This seems both an ode to depression and death and may well be the first of the endless modern novels that insist on the right to include an indelible image of cruelty to animals.

Will men never end their hideous cruelties?

Will writers never end their need to horrify us?
LibraryThing member Sensory
Beautifully written, but a bit repetitive. Also a bit sad. Good book club book, you would have to be in the right mood to appreciate this book. Four stars for the writing.
LibraryThing member Kristelh
This semi autobiographical, travel journal, historical, social commentary, how to write a novel book. V.S.Naipaul creates a story that does all of the above. The main character is a young man from Trinidad who decides he will be a writer and he goes to England to become this author.

Structure: Book
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in 5 parts but it is not linear. It loops from place to place, past to present, present to future. As a reader I found myself having thoughts of "have we been here before? Did I lose my place because this all seems familiar. It is somewhat disorienting. The novel is named after the the art work of Giorgio de Chirico. The scene is of a cityscape but behind the wall is unknown but we see an old ship mast and in front of the wall there are 2 alienated figures. One figure is going and the other is coming. It is rather bleak picture and Naipaul references this picture.

Themes are the journey, arrival, dislocation and alienation. Another theme is change. Over all it was enjoyable but not engaging. I can appreciate the quality of the work. Naipaul is truly a great author deserving of accolades.

another interesting tidbit; the landlord is modeled after Stephen Tennat (1906 to 1987), a 1920s socialite. He also is used as model in E. Waugh's novels, Cedric Hampton in Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford.
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LibraryThing member edwinbcn
For readers familiar with Naipaul's biography, for instance, The world is what it is. The authorized biography of V.S. Naipaul or his autobiographical Between father and son. Family letters it is immediately clear that The enigma of arrival is a fictionalized version of his own first years in
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To be frank, I have read much more non-fiction than fiction of Naipaul, and then mostly his earlier short novels set in Trinidad, and reading The enigma of arrival I was struck by the beautiful descriptions. The biographical background information deepened my appreciation, although I am sure the book can be enjoyed without that.

Although Naipaul was very poor during the first years of his stay in London, little of that is visible in this book, which seems more focused on the period he was coming into his own, and found a safe have on the estate of Stephen Tennant (1906-1987), who offerend him a kind of writer's residence. The atmosphere of the book throughout is that of nostalgia, melancholy.
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