A Way in the World

ebook A Novel

By V. S. Naipaul

cover image of A Way in the World

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The Nobel Prize-winning author—and "one of literature's great travelers" (Los Angeles Times)—spans continents and centuries to create what is at once an autobiography and a fictional archaeology of colonialism. 
"Dickensian … a brilliant new prism through which to view (Naipaul's) life and work."—The New York Times
“Most of us know the parents or grandparents we come from. But we go back and back, forever: we go back all of us to the very beginning: in our blood and bone and brain we carry the memories of thousands of beings.”

So observes the opening narrator of A Way in the World, and it is this conundrum—that the bulk of our inheritance must remain beyond our grasp—which suffuses this extraordinary work of fiction. Returning to the autobiographical mode he so brilliantly explored in The Enigma of Arrival, and writing here in the classic form of linked narrations, Naipaul constructs a story of remarkable resonance and power, remembrance and invention.

It is the story of a writer’s lifelong journey towards an understanding of both the simple stuff of inheritance — language, character, family history — and the long interwoven strands of a deeply complicated historical past: “things barely remembered, things released only by the act of writing.” What he writes — and what his release of memory enables us to see — is a series of extended, illuminated moments in the history of Spanish and British imperialism in the Caribbean: Raleigh’s final, shameful expedition to the New World; Francisco Miranda’s disastrous invasion of South America in the eighteenth century; the more subtle aggressions of the mid-twentieth-century English writer Foster Morris; the transforming and distorting peregrinations of Blair, the black Trinidadian revolutionary. Each episode is viewed through the clarifying lens of the narrator’s own post-colonial experience as a Trinidadian of Indian descent who, during the twilight of the Empire, immigrates to England, reinventing himself in order to escape the very history he is intent upon telling.

A Way in the World