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Patrick French is the prize-winning author of Liberty or Death: India's Journey to Independence and Division; Tibet, Tibet: A Personal History of a Lost Land; and Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer. He lives in London.
This sweeping biography follows the Nobel laureate from his childhood in Trinidad to his college years at Oxford, through his struggles as a young writer, across continents, and eventually to the accomplished literary figure we know today. French (Tibet, Tibet) pulls extensively from private papers and personal recollections, having conducted five research trips to the University of Tulsa, where Naipaul's papers are located. Those familiar with Naipaul know he is controversial for his political and social views. What may not be as widely known, which French reveals at length, is the controversy of his private life. Naipaul married Patricia Hale at the age of 22. During the decadeslong marriage, he visited prostitutes and had an intense sexual relationship for 24 years with Margaret Gooding, whom he often treated harshly and physically abused. Hale, diagnosed with breast cancer, likely declined in health after learning of Naipaul's encounters with prostitutes. On the closing pages, French provides an empathetic image of Naipaul, leaving final judgments of this complex personality up to the reader. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.--Stacy Russo, Chapman Univ. Libs., Orange, CA Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
PRAISE FOR PATRICK FRENCH'S "THE WORLD IS WHAT IT IS" "A great writer requires a great biography, and a great biography must tell the truth. V.S. Naipaul wanted his monument built while he was still alive, and, sticking to his own ruthless literary code, he was willing to pay the full price....Now Naipaul has his monument, "The World Is What It Is" is fully worthy of its subject, with all the dramatic pacing, the insight and the pathos of a first-rate novel. It is a magnificent tribute to the painful and unlikely struggled by which the grandson of indentured Indian workers, born in the small island colony of Trinidad, made himself into the greatest English novelist of the past half century. It is also a portrait of the artist as a monster. How these two judgments can be simultaneously true is one of this book's central questions. Whether Naipaul himself understand the enormity of the story to which he contributed so much candor is another....rich narrative....impossible to put down....Pat's voice is faltering and uncertain where Naipaul's is relentlessly in command, but its small observations, evasions and sudden bolts of understanding haunt the reader up until her death of cancer, which gives this story its heartbreaking end."- George Packer, on the cover of the "New York Times Book Review""a prodigious achievement, a wonderful biography, a justification for the art of biography itself."- A. N. Wilson, "Times Literary Supplement" "astonishing (and astonishingly "authorized")....With the aid of this exhaustive and efficient biography, one can make some more-educated surmises about the connection between Naipaul's rigidly maintained exterior and the many layers ofinsecurity...that underlie it....shrewd and intelligent."- Christopher Hitchens, "The Atlantic" "I doubted whether an honest book could be written by anyone while Naipaul was still alive. I was wrong. The truth is not skimped in Patrick French's excellent book....The great merit of a superb biography, such as this one, is that it can deepen our understanding of the literary character by telling us more about its creator....French...gets it right."- Ian Buruma, "The New York Review of Books""extraordinary biography....French has handled an immense amount of materials with a deft hand, and the reader actually wishes he had extended the book's 487 pages of text and pursued his subject pas 1996....authorized but not compromised....It's hard to see how French could have been more objective if his subject had been dead for ten years....French is so thorough that it's likely no further biography of Naipaul, at least one covering the first sixty-odd years of his life, will ever be needed....French is very good on Naipaul's writing...."The World Is What It Is" adds depth and clarity to the discussion of Naipaul's work....French has met his own rigorous standards and, one feels, Sir Vidia's as well."- Allen Barra, "Bookforum" "one of the sprightliest, most gripping, most intellectually curious, and well, "funniest" biographies of a living writer...to come along in years....Mr. French is a relative rarity among biographers, a real writer, and at his best he sounds like a combination of that wily bohemian Geoff Dyer and that wittily matter-of-factual cyborg Michael Kinsley. Even the cameos in Mr. French's biography are crazily vivid....crafty and inquisitive book....Mr.French quickly and adroitly steps back to give us a wide-angled and morally complicated view....vivid prose....Mr. French writes with wit and feeling."- Dwight Garner, "The New York Times" "nuanced and generous....distinguished biography, one that aims to understand rather than simplistically condone or chastise....a superb, clear-eyed study, always sympathetic, balanced and thoughtful, as well as rich in what Joseph Conrad called 'the fascination of the abomination.'"- Michael Dirda, "Washington Post""extraordinary....Patrick French shrewdly...give[s] us an idea of...the world Naipaul had to join and beat....full of intimate and moving revelations...thrilling pages....masterly, mournful book...hideously just."- James Wood, "The New Yorker" "candid....well-researched and fair-minded....French skews nothing and...illuminate[s] aspects of a life full of entanglements and opposing selves."- Alexander Theroux, "Boston Sunday Globe ""shrewd and honest...[French is] a writer not given to extremes....French is a graceful, confident and subtle writer....offers a vivid, and sometimes enthralling, portrait of a deeply enigmatic writer....rich account....French skillfully evokes the atmosphere of political turmoil and transition....with brio and wit....French is alive to the nuances, quirks and contradictions in Naipaul's character, and he has an acute sense of his subject's displacement and rootlessness....a formidable achievement....contains a remarkable accumulation of rich, minute detail; covers a vast amount of history and politics in an effortless manner; and navigates difficult emotional territory with a very high degree of compassion, subtlety andauthority....engrossing, with French pulling surprises out of his hat from the opening pages."- Scott Sherman, "The Nation ""shocking moments...startling candor...as haunting and harrowing a psychological document as you could ask for....French pursues his prey with an acuity worthy of the man himself....The particular achievement of "The World" is to flesh out the two potent forces that Naipaul has often seemed to repress: women and Trinidad, where he grew up....French grippingly develops an account of the writer's life as cool and undeluded as Naipaul's former friend Paul Theroux's was rivetingly emotional....French is ...as plainspoken as his subject."- Pico Iyer, "Time" "perhaps the most shockingly 'authorized' biography in the history of authorized biographies....French handles the incendiary material with novelistic subtlety and grace."- Sam Anderson, "New York Magazine""a major achievement....harrowing....frank ....Naipaul's work will inevitably be read differently in light of this biography."- Floyd Skloot, "The Philadelphia Inquirer" "sweeping ....Highly recommended."- Stacy Russo, "Library Journal "PRAISE FROM THE UK FOR PATRICK FRENCH'S "THE WORLD IS WHAT IT IS"longlisted for the prestigious BBC Four Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction "French's character analysis is not flattering, but it does justice to its subject's complexity....French's book is a magnificent achievement....But the achievement is partly Naipaul's. For he did not have to agree to these conditions, or speak to French so openly. He has chosen to submit himself to the truth-telling and ruthless objectivity that have always characterised his own work."- John Cary, "The Sunday Times" "penetrating, wide-ranging and unflinching biography....The closing pages...are enough to draw tears.""- The Economist" "He has written a biography of a living person that is every bit as honest, perceptive, compelling and plain good as if his subject was dead. It is a masterly performance, and if a better biography is published this year, I shall be astonished....It is rare to wish that a biography running to over 500 pages was longer, but this is an exception."- Allan Massie," Literary Review" "French's character analysis is not flattering, but it does justice to its subject's complexity....French's book is a magnificent achievement....But the achievement is partly Naipaul's. For he did not have to agree to these conditions, or speak to French so openly. He has chosen to submit himself to the truth-telling and ruthless objectivity that have always characterised his own work."- John Cary, "The Sunday Times" "penetrating, wide-ranging and unflinching biography....The closing pages...are enough to draw tears.""- The Economist" "Patrick French has brought off something very difficult, so difficult indeed that I would have thought it impossible. He has written a biography of a living person that is every bit as honest, perceptive, compelling and plain good as if his subject was dead. It is a masterly performance, and if a better biography is published this year, I shall be astonished....It is rare to wish that a biography running to over 500 pages was longer, but this is an exception."- Allan Massie," Literary Review""a brilliant biography: exemplary in its thoroughness, sympathetic but tough in tone. Against Naipaul's own increasing 'tendency to caricature himself in public, ' and against the distortions peddled by snubbed friends and ideological enemies, French has set down a complex and credible portrait. Reading it I was enthralled -- and frequently amused (how incredibly funny Naipaul can be!). I was also continually aware of a great and unrelenting pressure on the developing writer; it suffuses the book like suspense....lovely to read....French's accounts...have their own entertainment value..."- Sebastian Smee, "Spectator" "Patrick French's brilliant and candid "The World Is What It Is" lays bare the demons that drove one of our greatest -- and most controversial -- writers....one of the brutally frank interviews that provide the backbone of this extraordinary book....a biography that reads on one level like a contemporary variation on Bluebeard's Castle, the kind of malign fairy tale at which, according to Naipaul, English writers excel...."The World Is What It Is" must have taken nerves of iron to write. Its clarity, honesty, even-handedness, its panoramic range and close emotional focus, above all its virtually unprecedented access to the dark secret life at its heart, make it one of the most gripping biographies I've ever read."- Hilary Spurling, "The Observer" "Few people expected Patrick French's biography to be a full account of the writer's life ... It turns out thatdoubters
V.S. Naipaul's biographer aims not "to sit in judgment of the Nobel laureate, but to expose the subject with ruthless clarity to the calm eye of the reader." In this he succeeds admirably. Descendant of poor Brahmins, born in 1932 in Trinidad and educated in Oxford, Naipaul is haunted by matters of race, colonialism and sex. He is, says award-winning author French (Younghusband), both the racist (against those darker than he) and the victim of racial prejudice, tendencies that come through in his novels and in his treatment of friends and lovers. Haunting this biography are Naipaul's women. His wife, Pat, supported him, overlooked his affairs and his visits with prostitutes, and subordinated herself to his genius; Naipaul gave equally little to Margaret, his mistress. Naipaul and his books may be the subject of this work, but it is these and the other women whom he depended on and took for granted--from his editor to his mother--whose stories will keep that "calm eye of the reader" glued to the pages of this disturbing biography. 16 pages of photos. (Nov. 7) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.