V. S. Naipaul has made himself into a writer serious people cannot ignore. He has been able to fathom the crucial issues, questions, and problems of contemporary life well before they surface for even the most perceptive of us. Among living writers he has acquired, deservedly, the greatest reputation for facing unpleasant facts, for truth-telling, for grasping what is really happening in the world, and through his art demonstrating the personal consequences of public events. Everything Naipaul writes has the quality that used to be known as gravity, which derives in part from the subjects he writes about, his themes, and his inexorable manner of pursuing them. In part, too, it derives from his almost sovereign authority. Sui generis, he is a writer above nationality, above received opinions, above (apparently) normal attachments and loyalties. He is “a being organized for literature,” as Henry James...


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