The enigma of arrival : a novel

by V. S. Naipaul

Hardcover, 1987





New York : Knopf, 1987.


Taking its title from the strangely frozen picture by surrealist painter Giorgio de Chirico, "The Enigma of Arrival" is the story of a young Indian from the Crown Colony of Trinidad who arrives in post-imperial England and consciously, over many years, finds himself as a writer. As he does so, he also observes the gradual but profound and permanent changes wrought on the English landscape by the march of "progress", as an old world is lost to the relentless drift of people and things over the face of the earth.

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 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.

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 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.… (more)
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 this.
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, if not spinning. This is something that I've come across in none of Naipaul's other books, all of which I've read.… (more)
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 space inside his head exist only as muffled details.… (more)
LibraryThing member EadieB
I found Naipaul's writing to be fascinating and inspiring at the same time. This book starts out slow and there is not much happening but there is a lot of detailed description and you begin to realize how Naipaul sees the common everyday experiences as something beautiful and not so common. His writing flows and is very easy to understand. He describes all the characters in such detail and is very aware of all their behaviors and psychological tendencies. Even without a basic plot, Naipul's command of language keeps the reader turning the pages. This book was definitely worth the effort as it is truly a rare and beautiful book and I look forward to reading more by this remarkable writer.… (more)
LibraryThing member Myckyee
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 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?


Local notes

publicity photo and bookmark laid in


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