said my brother, “Switch on the television. Naipaul on BBC.”
he was, filling up his chair, now bearded, moustached, an imposing
literary figure, but there was something wrong with his eyes. They looked
glued together. He seemed to be in discomfort. He said something about
being ill. There was some question over whether he had another book in him
yet. He appeared somewhat subdued.
he unnerved the interviewer who, anxious not to be made to look like a
fool on world television, was extremely careful with his questions. That,
too, irritated Sir Naipaul who swatted him as he would a fly to the
question that said he “offended people,” was nasty to them in his
told the interviewer to “go ask the people themselves why they were
offended.” He said he wrote what had to be written, “not what people
wanted to hear.”
last time I saw Sir Vidia in the flesh he was receiving his Trinity Cross
at President’s House—it was quite endearing really because his mother
was present, draped in a modest orhni and sari and looking incredibly
proud and he was the sheepish son. For an instant this made Sir Vidia like
all the other recipients of national prizes (although he got his on a
separate day in a special separate ceremony).
slipped a note to him, imploring him for an interview. I never heard from
him and can just imagine the careless brutality with which he crumpled and
disposed of it.
what might be one of his last books “Magic Seeds” which is the sequel
to “Half a Life,” his character grows up, joins a revolutionary
movement in Africa, realises it’s a sham, moves back to London and
ruminates over his life.
characters in “Magic Seeds” all speak in Sir Vidia’s voice. He is
the bit player, the star and the omniscient narrator all in one. They are
mouthpieces for his melancholy. After all this time, he hasn’t found his
way in the world, which he has circled many times over after his rejection
of his own country.
character in “Magic Seeds” was “assailed by a loneliness that took
him back to his first time in London 30 years before: back to some
evenings in his childhood when—understanding the strains in his family,
between his melancholy father, a man of caste, cheated of the life his
good looks and birth had entitled him to, and his mother, of no caste and
no looks, aggressive in every way, whom he, Willie, yet loved deeply;
understanding as a result with the deepest kind of ache that there was no
true place in the world for him—back to that childhood when on some
especially unhappy evenings there came, with the utmost clarity, a
child’s vision of the earth spinning in darkness, with everyone on it
his accolades, despite decades of circling of real worlds as opposed to
his hated mimic islands, Naipaul’s story is one of displacement and the
impossibility of escaping ones birthplace.
might think I am talking like an old fool, and I probably am. But I cannot
pretend at this age that I am making my way. In fact, every day I see more
clearly that here, though I am a man rescued and physically free and sound
in mind and limb, I am also like a man serving an endless prison sentence.
I don’t have the philosophy to cope. It’s terrible to think of these
people who look all right carrying their hidden wounds and even more
terrible to think that I am one of them.”
all these years, with eyes half shut, and a collapsing body, his childhood
taunts him. Not even a Nobel could save him from that.