A Writer's People: Ways of Looking and Feeling

by V. S. Naipaul

Hardcover, 2008




Knopf, (2008)


"Over the course of his astonishing fifty-year career, V.S. Naipaul's writing has been characterized by a commitment to truth. In A Writer's People he brings clarity and experience to an exploration of the ways we think, see and feel. The range of this book reflects an intellect deeply engaged with the challenges of assimilation faced by the 'serious traveller', one for whom there can be no single world view. Naipaul writes about the classical world what we have retained from it, what we have forgotten - and the more recent past. Figures as diverse as Mahatma Gandhi, Derek Walcott and Gustave Flaubert come under his compassionate scrutiny, as do his own early years in Trinidad, the silences in his family history and the roles played by Anthony Powell and Francis Wyndham in his first encounters with literary culture."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member edwinbcn
A writer's people. Ways of looking and feeling is a singularly unfocused and self-indulgent collection of essays. It seems that winning the Nobel Prize for Literature enabled V.S.Naipaul to shed the last shred of modesty and elevate his writing to the level of l'art pour l'art in which only the writer counts, and the reader is reduced to an optional accessory.

It is quite likely that winning the Nobel Prize in some sense devastated Naipaul. Since winning the prize in 2001, he has not produced any major works, with only Magic Seeds appearing in 2004 and this collection of essays A writer's people. Ways of looking and feeling in 2007. fans of Naipaul had to wait till 2010 for his next book, The Masque of Africa.

The essays are very well-written, and, going by their titles could have been very interesting. "Worm in the bud" outlines Naipaul's growth and genesis as a writer, but his self-centredness makes his appear the central axis of the universe. While one might argue that within his world, that is the world of his creation, the author is, in fact, the central creating force, real-life references to his father and contemporaries make this first essay seem overly self-centred.

The second essay, "An English way of looking" consists of an uncalled for cowardly back stabbing beyond the grave of Anthony Powell, whom Naipaul elsewhere called his friend. The author describes how soon after coming to England as a beginning author, he met Anthony Powell, and it is clear that to some extent, this friendship benefitted Mr Naipaul. It is all the more strange that he goes on to describe his disappointment in Powell. Whatever the merits or demerits of Powell's work, Naipaul's condemnation of that work as a pinnacle of mediocrity is futher proof of the bad taste of this essay collection.

Naipaul has written extensively on India, but the third essay, "Looking and not seeing: the Indian way" adds nothing to it. It is a longish, boring essay, mainly on Indian history, which reads like an occasional piece pulled of the shelf to act as a filler, as with the fifth essay "India again: the mahatma and after". It is therefore puzzling why the two essays about India are separated by the essays called "Disparate ways", which mainly deals with the work of Gustave Falubert.

Some of the essays feel as if they have been "prepared" for this collection. this is noticeable by a sudden swing in the focus of the essay, as if a number of introductory paragraphs or pages was added. The result is a sense of disorientation, as the main focus of some of the essays is different from what the first two pages lead in to.

Readable, but unfair.
… (more)


Original language



Page: 0.3194 seconds