Stephanie's Reviews > The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul

The World Is What It Is by Patrick French
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's review
Feb 14, 2009

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Read in April, 2009

This was and continued to be a bit of slow start -- first you seemingly learned about each sugar cane stalk in Trinidad, each newspaper article written by Naipaul, each letter written to each person in his life, and then finally every final detail about his long-suffering (physically and mentally) wife's death.

In the end what I learned is that Naipaul, one of my favorite writers (read A Bend in the River), is really a jerk. He's self-absorbed, masochistic (internally and at times, sexually), repressed (except when with a prostitute or his meek long-standing lover), woefully unhappy where ever he is (until he's left he place, then he glorifies it and wants to return), a miser with money and affection, and yes, brilliant.

The biographer, Patrick French, had full access to all of his archives, including all the materials that Naipaul forced his first wife to offer up to a university for his monetary and literary gain. French writes very well and thoroughly and the amount of research, interviews (including Naipaul himself) is staggering. What is most interesting is that despite the not-so-pretty picture himself, Naipaul did not change one word of the manuscript prior to printing. Naipaul admits his numerous foibles, suggesting in the book that it's not him, it's the written word that makes him this way. It's all for his work -- and the people in his life, including those he literally used and abused, would agree and would been his colleague, life, mentor, muse, lover and wife all over again

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