13 June 2011

Naipaul: Love him, hate him but you can’t ignore him...

I think of Naipaul and this is the only line that comes to my mind. Mind you this opinion is not really on the basis of his scandalous news and foot in mouth comments but mainly his books. Such is the world of literature where one book defines the author – whatever the genre, quality or commercial success. All it takes is one book.

Now as it turns out I had read a book of his already ‘Half A life’ and could not decipher one thing. How could he ever win Nobel prize for literature? NOBEL PRIZE.. now that is supposedly very big.. either I am reading the wrong book of his, I mean the worst or maybe he just didn’t deserve it... or maybe the Nobel has lost its lustre, and they didn’t have too many nominees to choose from so they settled on better of the worst...

But it sometimes happen that you don’t like a book at a particular stage of your life. May be you were too young or in a very different phase of life to relate to that book. It has happened to me before, a few of the books which I read earlier and hated, have started making more sense to me now and some books which I liked earlier makes me wonder how could I ever like this book.

So a lot depends on a reader’s circumstance or age or stage of life... and sometimes it also depends on the genre may be it is not your type of fiction... you like stories but only if they had a little positive note, or even if they are not positive they can be depressing but not disparaging... and that sums up Naipaul’s first book for me..

I generally don’t touch an author if I don’t like the first book, and I would have shied away again until a book recommendation came knocking at my door – that is to read ‘Miguel Street’ by Naipaul.
With great courage I issued it from the library and it turned out to be a flip edition – you know one book with two books on each flip side running towards one another... and so it turned out that I had landed with two books of Naipaul in place of one...even bigger irony in all this was that the note on the book cover stated that I should read ‘The Mystic Masseur’ before I read ‘Miguel Street’. It was just too much for me.. but being honest to the recommendation I decided to give it a try.. I opened the book with a feeling like picking up a fallen cake box knowing it would definitely be ruined but hoping it wouldn’t.
The ‘Mystic Masseur’ was as simple as it could be.. the rise of a fake but well read mystic in Trinidad of 50s. It was well written like an assignment during your English course at college. Later I found out that both these stories were actually one of the first pieces of Naipaul just when he was starting. They were a far cry from ‘Half A life’, more positive and you could see an effort to create a story, a flow and a plot over the life and rise of a mystic.

As for ‘The Miguel Street ‘ – even though it was not a Nobel deserving piece but it was again simple and truthful to its theme... you might have read books based on plots, stories, twists, heroes.. but this book is solely dedicated to the CHARACTERS..


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