One of the “perks” (if you can call it that) of owning a bookshop is that you’re always being reminded in one way or another of how poorly read you are. Time is finite, even for the most avid bibliophile, and even more so when you have a business to run and a family to raise. I find that I’m most reminded of the gaps in my reading list when a well-known author passes away and I feel a twinge of guilt for not having read any of his or her works. Luckily, in the case of V.S Naipaul who passed away the weekend just gone by, it’s just a twinge of guilt for having only read one of his novels, A Bend in the River. A winner of both the Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature, Naipaul was highly regarded for his fiction, and his non-fiction travel-writing. Born and raised into an Indian family in Trinidad but living most of his like in the UK, the recurring themes of Naipaul’s work were the legacies of decolonization and the dislocation felt by exiled protagonists living apart from their own culture. This sounds like a recipe for earnest do-gooding, Guardian-approved political tracts, but in Naipaul’s hands was nothing of the sort. Besides writing beautifully penned-stories he was un-sparing in his dissection of the societies in which his characters lived (in his fiction), or which he visited (in his travel-writings). By all accounts VS Naipaul was a complicated, and not altogether pleasant human being, but he was a master story-teller as his literary legacy shows. And now I better pick another of his books off the shelf and read it!
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