A Garden, A Cat, A Passion

September 13th, 2004 · No Comments
by Booksquare

When authors of a certain stature release new works, profiles inevitably follow. After you’ve read two or three of these, there really is no need to go further. The questions follow a predictable pattern, and the answers? There are only so many ways to to say the same thing over and over. This makes the rare interview that exposes something more about an author all the more exciting to us. Like, oh, this profile of VS Naipaul.

While we know you’ll immediately follow the link to read the full article, we pulled out a few of our favorite quotes. Each is an instance where we could hear the author (and/or his wife) speaking. It’s so rare when interviews of this type reveal a subject’s personality, yet we finished reading with a sense that we’d chatted at a cocktail party.

At the time of his Nobel Prize in 2001, Naipaul claimed to be finished with fiction. There was nothing for him – or any other novelist – left to say.

‘So why did I do this book? Well, I think that publishers push one. They suggest you are saying fiction is over because you can’t write any more. They are provoking you.’

Naipaul has always been happy to be provoked, and likes to seem exhausted by the consequences. ‘Making a book is such a big enterprise,’ he says, with a sigh, sinking deeper in his chair. ‘There is so much inspiration needed, so many illuminations. You have a whole life’s experience to deal with, and it colours each of your sentences.’

The sentences of Magic Seeds are full of all Naipaul’s exact and cumulative brilliance. ‘My wish is to fix a scene with a very bright picture and to move along like that,’ he says of his method, ‘very bright pictures. People can never remember long descriptions. Just one or two images. But you have to choose them very carefully. That has always come naturally to me, of course.’

When there’s a pause I ask him if he can ever imagine a time when he can no longer write?

‘I think it will happen and I think it will be extremely painful. Without writing, everything will become insipid. Reading would have no point, because a writer reads with a purpose.’

Nadira laughs. ‘I can tell Tim [Adams, the interviewer] what you said to me: when I’ve finished writing, I will do reviews.’

‘No,’ says Naipaul quickly, ‘I would not do that. I have changed my mind.’

‘You said you were going to destroy a lot of big reputations!’ Nadira says.

‘Now,’ he says, ‘I think it is not worth it.’

‘That’s what I said,’ says Nadira. ‘I said: you do that, Vidia, and no one will come to your memorial service.’

File Under: Square Pegs