Longing in radiance

My stay in Trinidad is drawing to a close. I only have nine months left. Then I shall go away never to come back... I want to satisfy myself that I have lived as I wanted to live. As yet I feel that the philosophy I will have to expand in my books is only superficial. I am longing to see something of life.

These words were written by a 17-year-old V. S. Naipaul about to see something of life by means of a scholarship to Oxford. Between Father and Son is the record of an extraordinarily rich correspondence primarily between V. S. Naipaul (Vido in these letters) and his father, Seepersad Naipaul. It begins with Vido's arrival in England in 1950 and ends in 1953 with Seepersad's death. As a sad postscript, there are letters reporting what Seepersad did not live to see: the publication of Vido's first novel.
Seepersad is a man we feel we already know from A House for Mr. Biswas, a book whose title character was based on him. Seepersad (like Mr. Biswas) was a melancholy man, working for a Trinidad newspaper, frustrated by the demands of his family, by dependence on his in-laws and by poverty and debt. In rereading A House for Mr. Biswas I came across a passage that seems to represent Seepersad's state of mind (as fictionalized by his son) at the time his son was in Oxford:

"And though he had at first found the newspaper office stimulating with its urgency, the daily miracle of seeing what he had written in the afternoon transformed into solid print read by thousands the next morning, his enthusiasm, unsupported by ambition, faded. His work became painstaking and labored: the zest went out of his articles as it had gone out of himself. He grew dull and querulous and ugly. Living had always been a preparation, a waiting. And so the years had passed; and now there was nothing to wait for. Except the children. Suddenly the world opened for them. Savi got a scholarship and went abroad. Two years later, Anand got a scholarship and went to England."

Many of the themes familiar to the reader of V. S. Naipaul emerge in this correspondence: the enigma of arrival, the sadness of separation and exile, neocolonial ambition and the effort to find one's center. Naipaul once remarked, "All my work is really one; I'm really writing one big book," and indeed in these letters one finds the seeds for that opus.

The letters collected in this book illuminate with unalloyed candor the relationship between a sacrificing father and his determined son as they encourage each other to persevere with their writing. For though his father’s literary aspirations would go unrealized, Naipaul’s triumphant career would ultimately vindicate his beloved mentor’s legacy.

Between Father and Son: Family Letters, by V.S. Naipaul
This and other tittles from the Nobel Prize winner are at Bloom willing to get to your eyes.


Post a Comment

Copyright 2006| Templates by GeckoandFly modified and converted to Blogger XNL by Blogcrowds and tuned by Bloom * Creative Network.
No part of the content of the blog may be reproduced without notice and the mention of its source and the associated link. Thank you.