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The Enigma of Arrival

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  998 Ratings  ·  89 Reviews
The story of a writer's singular journey—from one place to another, from the British colony of Trinidad to the ancient countryside of England, and from one state of mind to another—this is perhaps Naipaul's most autobiographical work. Yet it is also woven through with remarkable invention to make it a rich and complex novel.
Paperback, 368 pages
Published April 12th 1988 by Vintage (first published 1987)
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Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Purposedly boring, yet purposedly exciting. I used to think it is not possible for a book to be both boring and exciting until I read this autobiographical work.

So far, what I know of V.S. Naipul I got only from this book. His parents were from India who had migrated to the island of Trinidad ( with the other island nearby, Tobago, it completes the country of "Trinidad and Tobago" near Venezuela where the beauty queens are). Since this was before large oil and gas reserves were discovered there,
May 04, 2012 Mmars rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I were to read this book again, I would read the last section, The Ceremony of Farewell, first. Really. The narrator's summation helps the book as a whole make sense. For one thing, Naipaul establishes the hurried, unedited stream of consciousness style he uses. This is most evident in "Jack's Garden," the first section, and my favorite, of the book.

Here, Naipaul in his youthful naievete relates the circumstances that brought him to Wiltshire, England. But more so, in a sing-songing string o
Apr 06, 2008 Josh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A perfect example of writing that feels very staid and traditional until, about half way through the book, you pick your head up and realize that it's doing something completely original. Not exactly fiction, not exactly non-ficiton (not exactly poetry for that matter), but filled with lush sentences that relay the slow, unstoppable movemements of a vegetative mind, Naipaul's, thinking about a particular place and a particular time so well that the meditation becomes about Place and Time, rather ...more
Dec 24, 2008 Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Impressive work of fiction that is some high percentage memoir of a writer’s life (obviously Naipaul's) in his adopted country. For a book with virtually no plot, just deep observation and precise, attentive description, it is amazingly absorbing reading.

Naipaul, by most, if not all accounts, is not a nice man, perhaps even by many measures a bad one, mean, self-absorbed, and cursed with a bully’s violent temper. None of that, however, is a factor, even much of a presence here. There are brief m
Oct 26, 2011 Becky rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm pretty sure you can figure out what I think of a book from the page number/time spent to read ratio. I've read so many five star reviews for this book and I've found them baffling. Sure, it's a cyclical narrative. Not that difficult to pull off when absolutely nothing happens. I got so sick of the repetition, which is apparently also a sign of brilliance. Does deciding you're going to be "a writer" really make you see the world any differently? I can understand being a pompous teenager in a ...more
Lovmelovmycats Hart
So boring. It could have won the Pulitzer Prize for SO BORING if there was one.
Jun 06, 2015 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lincoln-park
The Enigma of Arrival is one of V. S. Naipaul's masterpieces. In this autobiographical novel he successfully conveys to the reader the atmosphere of the English countryside through the meditations of the narrator on his original journey from Trinidad to England. Through the mind of the narrator we experience the fictional reality of the world-a world of Naipaul's making. Echoes from both James Joyce and Marcel Proust are visible in the narration of the novel. This seems a quiet book, but it is a ...more
Nov 08, 2009 Patrick rated it it was ok
This is a really odd book. The style is likeable enough that I read the whole thing even though this would be a candidate for the most words ever written about next to nothing.

It's basically an autobiographical novel that focuses on the writer's existance in Salisbury, UK. He skips over the good parts.

The best part of it is a review on the back cover that: "like a computer game leads the reader on by a series of clues....." This is from 1987 so if you liked the Legend of Zelda or Mike Tyson's pu
Guy Cranswick
Dec 13, 2015 Guy Cranswick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not quite a novel, it's a type of memoir, which comprises travel as a theme though it is set in one place. It is really about how travel changes those that move, whether emigrants or the permanently restless. Set in an English county, Naipaul is perspicacious to a great degree, the writing is acute, sometimes cruel, but nearly always accurate about people and place. A stimulating read.
Katelis Viglas
May 19, 2009 Katelis Viglas rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book long ago before V.S. Naipoul earn the Nobel Price. The painting of the cover stuck me. The title shuits perfectly not with the context but with the painting. Such a cover and such a title were very suggestive. Unfortunately the context just was absent. Very good language, but without something really amazing.
Jan 24, 2010 Jesse rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Jul 26, 2015 Nikoline rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of alienated lit
Recommended to Nikoline by: read for class
"The Enigma of Arrival" by V.S. Naipaul left me quite ambivalent, as the writing flows beautifully like a river, but it is also very seldom interrupted by dialogue which makes it, not difficult, but hard to read. It is not a book you read in one setting unless reading with your eyes closed counts. What I did not like about the writing was the way characters are described. Instead of showing and not telling, Naipaul does it the other way around which I do not approve of.

This is without doubt a b
From Publishers Weekly

Discursive and ruminative, more like an extended essay than a novel, the intricately structured chapters in this highly autobiographical book reveal "the writer defined by his . . . ways of seeing." Naipaul, in his own person, narrates a series of events, beginning during a period of soul-healing in Wiltshire, circling back to the day of his departure from Trinidad in 1950 when he was 18, describing his time in London before he went up to Oxford, moving back to Trinidad a

Apr 01, 2013 Nick rated it liked it
This is one of those books I could not read quickly. Not because it's extremely intricate, difficult to grasp - it was not a challenge by any standards. Not because it's outstandingly beautiful, hard to let go of - it was to me just the average novel.

The thing is, the story moves slowly, the pace matches the change of seasons, the succession of years //:o) .... and I wanted to adjust (and read it as slowly as itself it moves).

I personally disagree with what the author himself says in the end of
Apr 29, 2011 Cbj rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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A strange novel, very hypnotising in parts. It is the first circular novel I've read - you can start reading from any chapter. In fact, the first and longest chapter is almost the wrong chapter to start reading this novel and when I read this novel again, I'll start at the second. The first chapter annoyed me a little because I was always trying to picture in my head where all the geographical features were in relation to the buildings. If only there was a map! In the end, I had to ignore my loc ...more
Aug 08, 2009 Mazel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
En 1950, un adolescent d'origine hindoue quitte les Caraïbes pour devenir écrivain en Angleterre.

Trente années plus tard, V.S. Naipaul, auteur consacré, se retire à la campagne et tente de faire le point sur son oeuvre, sur lui-même, sur son pays d'adoption.

Avec l'implacable lucidité qui le caractérise, il évalue les dégâts du "progrès", mais aussi les promesses que l'avenir dessine.

S'il célèbre et regrette un certain art de vivre, il se garde de condamner celui qui lui succédera.

Depuis son
Jun 14, 2014 Arukiyomi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Once I’d settled into this, it was a beautiful read. Naipaul is a Nobel Laureate and so you expect that the prose will be challenging. But while A Bend in the River and In a Free State are more “psychologically challenging” as I said in my review of the latter, the challenge with Enigma is that is so very, very simple.

The prose is so measured and the descriptions so simple that you can be forgiven for getting bored until you grasp what Naipaul is doing. This is no accident. The prose perfectly f
May 09, 2014 Berna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Türkçe adı Gelişin Bilmecesi çev.Suat Ertüzün can yayınları
Adını Giorgio de Chirico'nun "enigma of arrival" isimli resminden alan bu kitap , 1845 lerde İngilizler tarafından Trinidad'a tarım işçiliği yapmaları için yerleştirilen Hintli göçmen bir aileye mensup yazarın , 1950'lerde yazar olmak için geldiği Londra'dan sonra 1970'lerde Salisbury'de yerleştiği eski bir malikane evine ait köy evinde geçirdiği yıllara ait otobiyografik bir roman. Ancak burda anlatılanlar yazarın kendi hikayesinden ziy
Jan 21, 2008 Sarovar rated it it was amazing
Recommended by my sister in laws uncle. So far- the first chapter was boring at first but then I realized it was absolutely brilliant. I don't think you can explain it. I think you have to read it to get it. I also think you have to be it. Like seriously, be it. I don't think I've ever really read anything like this, that was too smart for me and at the same time I intuitively "get". Good ol' VS Naipalm! Blowing me away.
May 25, 2016 Treez rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was my first Naipaul and I...JUST...could..NOT...connect. I reached till the 3rd chapter and my journey till then was of doubts (should I continue) and wonderings( where is Naipaul himself headed). It was like standing in front of a huge iron door with a glass peephole where you can see whats happening on the other side and want to go in but cannot...JUST..cant. And the agonising thing (yes,agonising because I was really lookign forward to a Naipaul) was the door wasnt even locked...leaving ...more
May 14, 2008 Jim rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Flat - that's the best word to describe how I felt while reading this book. It's unbelievably repetitious. I have nothing good to say about it
Awful!!! V.S. Naipaul is good over all....but this book is boring and I can't figure it out!!!
Sorin Hadârcă
Deși Naipaul are un stil rafinat, cartea a ieșit incredibil de plictisitoare. Doar capitolul despre sosirea sa în Anglia cu intenția de a scrie suscită curiozitatea - tendința (demascată acum) de a substitui realității închipuirile sale despre omul-scriitor.

În celelalte capitole, autorul oarecum se contrazice, ascunzându-se în spatele unor personaje minore pe care le amplifică forțat până la niște dimensiuni epice. Dacă intenția a fost să demonstreze că până și din zborul buburuzei se poate face
Aug 27, 2015 Hope rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Enigma of Arrival by V.S. Naipaul is an extremely nostalgic book that makes you question where and what is home. The book was published in the year of my birth, 1987, and has had several covers. This cover, with the wintery road is perhaps my favourite because I feel like it really captures the essence of the book. And too be honest, I’m a sucker for good cover art. That whole judging-a-book-by-its-cover thing is slightly askew for me.

The story is set in five main parts and jumps backwards a
Aug 20, 2014 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this on a recommendation from a friend at work. I haven't read much Indian literature before so I thought this would be a good way to branch out.

There were some interesting concepts explored in the book--death, the passage of time, becoming--and I thought the references to Stonehenge, ivy, and the changing seasons were appropriate. But the book just wasn't interesting enough to make me want to think about what the author was trying to say. It was boring and not that enjoyable to read.
An unusually structured novel about one man, much like the author, as he reflects on his life and experiences as an expatriate Indo-Trinidadian writer living in England. Over the course of the book he relates many events in his own life and events in the lives of the assorted people he encounters as he journeys from his homeland to a life and career in Britain.

The tone of the work is quite contemplative and full of rhythmically repetitive descriptions of the landscapes and seasonal changes on t
Carmen Thong
Feb 08, 2016 Carmen Thong rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this for a dissertation, so I am performing a very specific kind of reading. Skimmed a lot of the sections (I read them but this is not a book that is given to skimming, so those sections didn't sick well - hence I'd categorise it as skimming). Great writing and a book that needs to be appreciated slowly. Naipaul is good at expressing experience, giving words and formulations to experience that I relish, mostly because I relate. Will write further upon an inevitable reread.
Kiera Healy
This was the first VS Naipaul book I read, and I'm sorry to say that I picked a real dud. It was only when I was a third of the way into it that I glanced at some Goodreads reviews which made it clear that it was quite different from his normal books. What a shame.

The Enigma of Arrival is a semi-autobiographical work. It is written as a retrospective, with the author figure looking back on his life, and the material includes his moving from Trinidad to England, and his settling in a Wiltshire vi
Mar 11, 2015 Fan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first encounter with Naipaul, and after that I immediately read several of his other books. He's a master of language and style. Reading this book is like walking along a peaceful, meandering river at sunset. You're happy yet you want to cry, too, for some reason.
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Naipaul was born and raised in Trinidad, to which his grandfathers had emigrated from India as indentured servants. He is known for the wistfully comic early novels of Trinidad, the bleaker novels of a wider world remade by the passage of peoples, and the vigilant chronicles of his life and travels, all written in characteristic, widely admired, prose.

At 17, he won a Trinidad Government scholarshi
More about V.S. Naipaul...

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“In my late thirties the dream of disappointment and exhaustion had been the dream of the exploding head: the dream of a noise in my head so loud and long that I felt with the brain that survived that the brain could not survive; that this was death. Now, in my early fifties, after my illness, after I had left the manor cottage and put an end to that section of my life, I began to be awakened by thoughts of death, the end of things; and sometimes not even by thoughts so specific, not even by fear rational or fantastic, but by a great melancholy. This melancholy penetrated my mind while I slept; and then, when I awakened in response to its prompting, I was so poisoned by it, made so much not a doer (as men must be, every day of their lives), that it took the best part of the day to shake it off. And that wasted or dark day added to the gloom preparing for the night.” 7 likes
“How could people like these, without words to put to their emotions and passions, manage? They could, at best, only suffer dumbly. Their pains and humiliations would work themselves out in their characters alone: like evil spirits possessing a body, so that the body itself might appear innocent of what it did.” 7 likes
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