Saturday, March 06, 2004

Not many writers get to write their own epitaph, but it is hard not to feel that this is precisely what Naipaul is about in Literary Occasions. However far he journeys, the dark continent of his travels has always been himself, that displaced, self-created (and to his mind) self-creating creature.

In Literary Occasions, he returns again to his origins, to the place and the experiences that made him what he is, as if by tracing out the many ways he has tried to make sense of his own past. Naipaul makes explicit the process of invention and reinvention of the self that he wants to be seen as central to his work.

The result is a book that seems to reveal as much through its method as through its contents. All of Naipaul is here--the majesty of the voice, the penetration of the gaze, the coruscating intelligence, but there is also the sense of a writer engaged in a dialogue with his own legacy, as if by returning to the beginning at the end he might invent himself for us and for him one last time.

-- From James Bradley's double review of Literary Occasions & an anthology called Away: The Indian Writer as an Expatriate
(ed. Amitava Kumar), in today's edition of The Age.

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