A N Wilson

A Great Writer Revealed

Literary Occasions: Essays


Picador 202pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

ALMOST NO WRITER starts from nowhere. The writer nearly always has a godparent, sometimes several, who guides his early work, helps him find a voice. Lesser writers, of course, never find a voice. They begin by imitation, and then end in nonentitv. It is not with them that we are concerned. V S Naipaul i a great writer, one of the few great writers still living and employing our language. I would say – he might disagree – that he had two godparents, Dickens and Conrad. All that he had learnt from Dickens he had absorbed and, as it were, discarded before he wrote his comic masterpiece, A House for Mr Biswas. The labour of writing that book has been more than once described. And in this collection of essays and remarks about writing, Naipaul includes his preface to the Knopf edtion of 1983. ‘The original idea was simple, even formal: to tell the story of a man like my father, and for the sake of narrative shape, to tell the story of the life as the story of the acquiring of the simple possessions by which the man is surrounded at his death. In the writing the book changed. It became the story of a man’s search for a house and all that the possession of one’s own house implies.’

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