The Strange Luck of V.S. Naipaul

By Adam Low


Focus Literature

The film weaves together sequences of V.S. Naipaul, Nobel Prize winner in Literature 2001, in the three places most significant for his development as a writer: Trinidad, India and Wiltshire. We follow Naipaul as he travels to Trinidad - the island where he was born and grew up, but which he has since dismissed as a 'plantation society'. In India, where his grandparents came from, Naipaul visits the Tomb of Humayun, the second emperor in the Mughal dynasty, about which he has controversial opinions - he regards them as 'Muslim invaders'. We also meet Naipaul at his home, Dairy Cottage, Wiltshire, where he has lived for more than thirty years.

In attempting to connect these very different places with Naipaul's views - he ignores public perceptions of political correctness and roots out cliche - the film reconstructs his life as a writer, which has been challenging by any standards.

Inevitably, Naipaul has become one of the most forthright and controversial of English writers: "The press have created a myth about me - they see me as Reactionary, Right Wing and Racial". We hear how Naipaul counters these accusations, and what he thinks about himself. After 20 years as a so-called recluse, in which he has won every possible honour a writer can receive, the BBC was able to re-assess Naipaul, who told the Arena team that he would like the film to be 'as personal as possible'.

His second wife Nadira, his agent Gillon Aitken, and his first editor Diana Athill, also appear in this intimate portrait, but the central character is Naipaul himself, who remains, at the age of seventy-five, as vital a presence and as incisive a mind as ever.