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V. S. Naipaul

Trinidadian-British writer of Indo-Nepalese ancestry
One isn't born one's self. One is born with a mass of expectations, a mass of other people's ideas — and you have to work through it all.

Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul (born 17 August 1932) is a British writer who was born and raised in Trinidad. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001.



  • One always writes comedy at the moment of deepest hysteria.
    • Quoted in "V.S. Naipaul in Search of Himself: A Conversation" with Mel Gussow, The New York Times, (24 April 1994)
  • To this day, if you ask me how I became a writer, I cannot give you an answer. To this day, if you ask me how a book is written, I cannot answer. For long periods, if I didn't know that somehow in the past I had written a book, I would have given up.
    • Quoted in "V.S. Naipaul in Search of Himself: A Conversation" with Mel Gussow, The New York Times, (24 April 1994)
  • I have told people who ask for lectures that I have no lecture to give. And that is true. It might seem strange that a man who has dealt in words and emotions and ideas for nearly fifty years shouldn't have a few to spare, so to speak. But everything of value about me is in my books. Whatever extra there is in me at any given moment isn't fully formed. I am hardly aware of it; it awaits the next book. It will — with luck — come to me during the actual writing, and it will take me by surprise. That element of surprise is what I look for when I am writing.

The Enigma of Arrival (1987)Edit

Vintage, 1988, ISBN 0-394-75760-2
  • I also bought a copy of The New York Times, the previous day's issue of which I had seen the previous day in Puerto Rico. I was interested in newspapers and knew this paper to be one of the foremost in the world. But to read a newspaper for the first time is like coming into a film that has been on for an hour. Newspapers are like serials. To understand them you have to take knowledge to them; the knowledge that serves best is the knowledge provided by the newspaper itself. It made me feel a stranger, that paper.
    • "The Journey" (p. 115)
  • Men need history; it helps them to have an idea of who they are. But history, like sanctity, can reside in the heart; it is enough that there is something there.
    • "The Ceremony of Farewell"

A Turn in the South (1989)Edit

Vintage, 1990, ISBN 0-679-72488-5
  • The family feuds or the village feuds often had to do with an idea of honor. Perhaps it was a peasant idea; perhaps this idea of honor is especially important to a society without recourse to law or without confidence in law.
    • Ch. 5 (p. 162)
  • Religion now had to have its compartment, almost its social place.
    The frontier had ceased to exist. And the religions it had bred were beginning slowly to die. In the old days, when men, often of little education, had needed only to declare themselves ministers, people would have seen themselves reflected in the expounders of the Word. This quality of homespun would have made the religions appear creations of a community, personal and close and inviolable. Now a certain distance was needed.
    • Ch. 6 (p. 244)

Half a Life (2001)Edit

  • Life doesn't have a neat beginning and a tidy end, life is always going on. You should begin in the middle and end in the middle, and it should be all there.
  • I could scarcely bear to look at her eyes. They promised such intimacies.
  • I thought how terrible it would have been if, as could so easily have happened, I had died without knowing this depth of satisfaction, this other person that I had just discovered within myself. It was worth any price, any consequence.
  • And whenever I saw Luis, Graça's husband, I dealt with him with a friendship that was quite genuine, since it was offered out of gratitude for Graça's love.
  • Before comfort had been squeezed out of the hard land, like blood out of stone.

Quotes about V. S. NaipaulEdit

  • Let us add one more complication success brings: the illusion of predestination. In this regard I cannot help recalling a long conversation with V. S. Naipaul in which he insisted that he could not have failed as an author, and that recognition, even immediate recognition, of his genius was inevitable, simply because he was so good. I could not persuade him to accept that he only believed this because he had in fact been successful and that it must have been possible, given the world’s perversity, for recognition to have eluded him. The conviction of predestination came after the event.
    • Tim Parks, “Stifled by Success,” The New York Review of Books, March 12, 2015
  • Naipaul is essentially a writer of discovery. He tries on occasion to look into the past through the evidence of the present. That’s what he did in writing about the ruins of Vijayanagar in India: A Wounded Civilisation. He is not a professional historian, but his insights and perspectives on Indian history are unique and as startling in their accuracy as the observations of his travel.

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