The Nobel Prize-winning author distills his wide experience of countries and peoples into a moving account of the rites of passage endured by all people and all communities undergoing change or decay. • "Naipaul's finest work." —Chicago Tribune
"A subtly incisive self-reckoning." —The Washington Post Book World
The story of a writer’s singular journey – from one place to another, and from one state of mind to another. At the midpoint of the century, the narrator leaves the British colony of Trinidad and comes to the ancient countryside of England. And from within the story of this journey – of departure and arrival, alienation and familiarity, home and homelessness – the writer reveals how, cut off from his “first” life in Trinidad, he enters a “second childhood of seeing and learning.”
Clearly autobiographical, yet woven through with remarkable invention, The Enigma of Arrival is as rich and complex as any novel we have had from this exceptional writer.
"The conclusion is both heart-breaking and bracing: the only antidote to destruction—of dreams, of reality—is remembering. As eloquently as anyone now writing, Naipaul remembers." —Time
"Far and away the most curious novel I've read in a long time, and maybe the most hypnotic book I've ever read." —St. Petersburg Times
Discursive and ruminative, more like an extended essay than a novel, the intricately structured chapters in this highly autobiographical book reveal "the writer defined by his . . . ways of seeing.'' Naipaul, in his own person, narrates a series of events, beginning during a period of soul-healing in Wiltshire, circling back to the day of his departure from Trinidad in 1950 when he was 18, describing his time in London before he went up to Oxford, moving back to Trinidad after his sister's death: these journeys are a metaphor for his life. With beautiful use of detail recaptured from an extraordinary memory, with exquisitely nuanced observations of the natural world and his own interior landscape, he shows how experience is transmogrified after much incertitude and paininto literature. This is a melancholy book, the testament of a man who has stoically willed himself to endure disappointment, alienation, change and grief. Naipaul lays bare the loneliness, vulnerability and anxieties of his life, the sensibility that is both an asset for the writer and a burden for the man. He demonstrates this brilliantly by describing other peoplemainly his neighbors in a village near Stonehenge. Using these characters as catalysts, Naipaul peels back protective layers of memory, sparing himself nothing, revealing the mistakes and inadequacies of his life. The drama resides in small incidents: the death of a cottager, the firing of an estate's gardener; with each account, the narrative is spun more tightly into a seamless tapestry, a powerful document by a master of his craft. Readers Subscription Book Club main selection.
Wonderful and moving writing.