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A Writer's People: Ways of Looking and Feeling

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  226 ratings  ·  40 reviews
In 'A Writer's People', V.S. Naipaul brings unmatched clarity and rich experience to an exploration of the ways we think, see and feel.
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published 2007 by Picador
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3.36  · 
Rating details
 ·  226 ratings  ·  40 reviews

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Sep 30, 2007 rated it did not like it
Words used to describe Naipaul's work in the jacket copy of this book: "Astonishing", "rich", "extraordinary", "compassionate", "rich", "elegant", "gentleness", "humour".

Words Naipaul uses to describe the work of other writers in this book: "Unwieldy", "ponderous", "overstated", "over-written", "shallow", "minor", "vain and mad".

'Nuff said.
Rajat Ubhaykar
Insightful, but a little too disjointed and self-indulgent, not to mention grumpy. Naipaul's famous scorn for other writers' work is on full display here, to the extent that one performs a double take upon seeing a stray word of praise [he heartily approves of Madame Bovary though, thankfully, but takes down Flaubert's historical novel Salambbo]. His uncharitable views on Anthony Powell, a renowned novelist and Naipaul's mentor and friend in England, for instance, are really quite vicious. In ad ...more
sigurd ho trovato questi versi (straordinari) di Walcott, che non ricordo di avere letto altrove (dannazione!).

the fishermen rowing homeward in the dusk are not aware of the stillness through which they move
(I pescatori di ritorno all'imbrunire non hanno coscienza del silenzio dentro cui si muovono).

trovo che siano bellissimi, e profumano delicatamente di Virgilio.
tacitae per amica silente lunae. i critici ancora si interrogano se la notte in cui gli achei sorprendono i troiani c'era o non c'e
Omar Ali
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Naipaul is famously ungenerous and harsh, but he is also always worth reading. I have never read Anthony Powell, so I cannot say if his comments about Tony are unfair or not, but his insights about Gandhi and Nirad Choudhry (and "that fool, Vinoba Bhave") are pure gold. And you will learn more about classical Rome from this book than you can from entire books on the subject. And a must read for anyone thinking of becoming a full time "writer".. What happens now that his own" universal civilizati ...more
Tanuj Solanki
The minor danger is that Naipaul, the Exile exemplar, might be himself turning into an 'over-written-about' country.

Otherwise, he does here serious harm to Anthony Powell's life-work, calls A Passage to India w/o meaning, destroys Flaubért's Salammbô, and educates about the making of Mahatma Gandhi.
Feb 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: india, reviews
Usually I manage to resist reading a review before I read any book. But, when it is reviewed as the main article at the London Review of Books, it becomes incredibly hard to ignore. And impossible, either due to the reaction to it or because of my admiration for the writer, if it is a Naipaul book. Through such travails of reading the book after having read about it, and, amidst reverberating echoes of such canon-shots booming between the pages, I finished Naipaul's latest book Writer’s people - ...more
Jigar Brahmbhatt
Feb 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
The piece I enjoyed the most in this collection of essays, all bound together by themes of looking and feeling, was about India, and it is amusingly titled: "Looking and not seeing - the Indian way".

Salim, a little known author of a book called Jeevan Darshan, leaves India and goes to Surinam back in the early 20th century. 20 years later a young Indian from South Africa returns to India with a vision of his own. Naipaul encounters a mattress-maker in the ancestral home of his grandmother in Tr
It's my fault to began reading V.S. Naipaul from his non-fiction essays not from his great novels awarded prestogious Nobel Prize. In the first non-fiction books I couldn't find the spirit of his genious, mastery of his language, marvelous gift og writing. After finishing this book, which was also collections of essays I must admit I had been wrong. I've found in it evidence of his talent, especially in descriptions, language – simple and accurate. And because of it the subject which was rather ...more
Sep 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, writing, india
I started with this sometime back, and when work life got hectic, kept it aside, to pick up again recently, in two minds whether I should. I ended up rereading parts I had read, and while I was tempted to take away a star for Naipaul being what he is -- leaving a bad taste here and there, sweeping in his judgements here and there -- I'm going to keep all five, mainly because of the way he redeems himself in the last chapter, towards the end, where he mercilessly (well, that's to be expected of h ...more
Sairam Krishnan
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A remarkable book about writing from the man who, as the Observer says, ‘more than anybody else embodies what it means to be a writer.’ Though the ideas in the book, a sort-of condensation of a lifetime of thinking deeply about these particular topics, are in themselves extraordinary, it is still the writing that seems to take your breath away. There is a weight in the tone and the narration, a certain seriousness. He is not requesting your attention here, he is demanding it. And a couple of pag ...more
Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
General consensus is that I should look for the merits of this book beyond the apparent arrogance and malice of the author. But, frankly, even with arrogance and malice put aside - this book is very shallow and it is much less than what it could have been, considering the writer is so learned.

Don't get me wrong, book is very readable, I finished it in a day. But when I picked it, it expected to learn about writing, a writer's influences and so on. The book focuses on how a writer's outlook can
May 03, 2008 rated it liked it
V.S.Naipaul has always been interested in the disparate ways in which different cultures 'think' and 'see'. He has written about them at various times in his many books. This book is specially devoted to this subject. He deals with the way of 'seeing' by the Indian culture, by the British and by the Caribbean.
However, as he ages, Naipaul is not able to bring back his brilliance which was easy to see in his younger years. This book has some summary dismissals which do not do any good to him as a
Bookmarks Magazine

Critics have always, understandably, had a difficult time separating V. S. Naipaul's personality from his work, and the author's arrogance and solipsism often come under fire, particularly when he attacks fellow writers. For example, in an essay on fellow Nobel laureate and Trinidadian Derek Walcott, Naipaul questions his countryman's recent output. As the Philadelphia Inquirer points out, however, Naipaul "blithely ignores the fact that the same point has been made about his own work." A good m

Dec 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
I enjoyed the critique of the other writers. However, as usual, I think it is a telescopic view and overgeneralization when it comes to extrapolating the view of the culture from the view of the writers. I somehow did not find the coherence that would tie one chapter to the other and come to a strong conclusion. The initial chapters were very interesting. However, did not understand what he wanted to say when he critiqued "The Autobiography of an unknown Indian"... or some such...
Mar 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Naipaul has his sharp edges (During an interview with an author, he began a question, "But getting back to your wretched book—" ouch.) He also is a spectacular thinker and writer.

But the Flaubert portion of this writing baffles me. It seems to be him summarizing Flaubert's Salammbô in order to illustrate why it doesn't equal the brilliance of Madame Bovary.
A detailed summary as a criticism? odd.
Anthony Caplan
Apr 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Interesting biographical information about Naipaul's humble beginnings in Trinidad. All the more remarkable, but understandable, is the brittle, somewhat pompous voice that develops over the years.
Mar 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
After reading this book and Finding the Centre back to back, I felt I had been unreasonable in thinking him arrogant. Showed me how media opinion tends to seep in.
May 16, 2010 rated it it was ok
It was interesting to learn about some of the South Asian diasporic writers that Naipaul discusses, but there is too little insight and too much bitterness.
Ignore the idiotic subtitle and Naipaul's reputed bitchiness toward ex-friends. He's hardly fair toward Anthony Powell—whose reputation as the English Proust is much more unfair to Proust—but you can't write upper-middlebrow schlock, as Powell did, and expect no one to notice, as Powell also did. Naipaul is even more uncharitable toward Derek Walcott, who himself was hardly charitable to Naipaul. (After praising Naipaul's early work, Walcott in a review for The Enigma of Arrival called his reput ...more
Manish Katyal
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A grumpy, ungenerous soul. Yet, what a writer and the biting observations!
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting book on writing
Thomas Bousquet
Feb 26, 2014 rated it liked it
I had never read a Naipaul's book - never even heard of him - before a flatmate, leaving my shared accommodation, passed this one onto me. This should act as a strong disclaimer of my understanding and appreciation this piece.

'A Writer's People' traces the life and literary output of a dozen of writers - of note or not - that have somehow stuck in Naipaul's mind: it ranges from Trinidad's authors I didn't know about to household name like Gandhi or Flaubert. Usually, this sort of exercises turns
Harini Srinivasan
Naipaul's ways of looking and feeling are different and interesting. I really enjoyed all the chapters on India. He makes many acute observations about the country and its figures. His assessment of Gandhiji's true greatness is incisive. So are his snide and hilarious remarks about those he considers fake -- my word, not his -- like Nirad C. Chaudhuri and Vinobha Bhave. It's the sort of thing one would say only to a close friend, but Naipaul never bothers to be tactful or politically correct. Th ...more
J. Watson (aka umberto)
This non-fiction is interesting since, I read somewhere, his aim is that his readers would enjoy reading his writing. I think this book is worth reading if you don't mind following his narration in which it might be tedious sometime but you'd learn something more from his unique information related to his "Ways of Looking and Feeling" as part of the book title.

For instance,

This had been an education in itself, training me out of my old idea that poetry dealt in declamation and obvious beauty: s
Mahwish Chowdhary
Feb 14, 2016 rated it did not like it
I'm marveling myself at the thought he is being awarded Nobel prize. This is the first time i read any of Naipul's work, unfortunately i grabbed this one which is a lost cause. I had to tell myself to finish reading till end (mainly i don't like categorizing anyone's work without giving a full read) but there was nothing special. I couldn't find treasure of genius in him, a writer's greatest challenge is to captivate the reader in his imagination, roars of creativity, and flow of ideas whatever ...more
Carlos Rubens
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
One of VS Naipaul's most recent publications, A Writer's People comprises a great account of experiences revealing aspects of transformation of the author himself. Sir Vidia reports discoveries and evolves, mainly in the way he interpreters and acknowledges the value of Derek Walcott's work.
Very interesting interpretation of Flaubert's work and the always intriguing "eye on India" with emphasis on Gandhi's path as a political and "far from ethereal" spiritual leader
Nallasivan V.
Jun 14, 2011 rated it liked it
A good book that talks about how writing is all about "seeing" things from a new perspective. The book does this mostly by analyzing writers ranging from flaubert to Derek Walcott to Mahatma Gandhi and explaining to us how their way of "seeing" is flawed. A good read if you can make some allowance for Naipaul's candidness and lack of sensibility when ripping apart other writers.
Jul 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Given the unquestionable talents at Naipaul's disposal, his decision to make this book a pulpit from which to deride now-deceased former friends is both a curious and a distasteful one.

As with all his works, a great deal of pleasure is to be taken from SOME of what he writes here; it is a shame he had to spoil the book with unprofessional- at the very least unbecoming- remarks.
David Inglesfield
Nov 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
I love Naipaul's gentle pace and human description. I have to say those who are deterred by his prickly personality I think miss the point - you can like the writing without liking the guy (whom of course I have never met).
May 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Settling scores. Lovely essay on "Salammbo".
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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