04 December, 2020

No Magic In These Seeds

Banal, barren and narcissistic, Naipaul's new 'autonovel' is almost a 'self-parody'

Prashant Panjiar
No Magic In These Seeds

When a writer is constantly in the news, not so much for his work as for his controversial statements or life, the man could easily overshadow the writer. But in V.S. Naipaul’s case, writer and man have kept pace with each other. He himself, however, does not separate the two. "Man and writer were the same person," he says in The Enigma of Arrival. Few writers have worked out this theory in fiction as persistently as Naipaul has, though he denies that he brings himself into his novel. According to him, he only uses an autobiographical frame and tries "to make fiction as close to life as possible". One must admit that Naipaul has been able to make this combination work. His previous novel, Half a Life, in which the life of Willie Somerset Chandran closely paralleled Naipaul’s own, won many admirers and it was hoped that Naipaul would eventually give readers the other half of that life. Which he has done in Magic Seeds, a novel that begins with Willie living in Berlin in "a temporary half and half way". (The words ‘half’ and ‘semi’ are almost a...



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