Originally published in 1964, this is the 29-year-old Naipaul's
observations of his first journey to India, the land his
grandfather came from. His previous books had been based on life in
Trinidad, but this was to be a whole different story; the
subcontinent was a mystery to the third-generation Indian, the
receding source of the social peculiarities and religious rituals
he felt so removed from when growing up in the Caribbean. The
'Traveller's Prelude' transports you directly to the scene, where
Naipaul, leaving Greece, makes full use of all five senses as he
ruminates on where the East starts, always alert to his exotic
surroundings. Whether writing about the 'pink, inexperienced, timid
and vulnerable' tourists besieged by horsecabs in the docks at
Alexandria, or his first impressions of Bombay, and the
mind-numbing paper-pushing and office-hopping required to carry out
an apparently simple task, it's all wonderful stuff. For the first
time in his life Naipaul looks no different from the faces in the
crowd and he's unsure how to cope. This, combined with the sensory
overload of his Indian experiences, leads to more incisive
observations seldom aired in travel literature. It's a singular
pleasure to read, both as a travel book and an autobiography, and
many who labour in both those overworked fields would do well to
consider Naipaul's craft, for the book has neither aged nor dated
in the intervening decades. Both the writer and his subject - the
vast subcontinent and its people at a time of transition - are
considered in depth, and brought to life with all the nuances,
notions and idiosyncrasies that set great writing apart from good.
That so many travellers to India still read it and consider it
essential some 40 years after its publication is testament to what
is quite simply a brilliant book. (Kirkus UK)
In this work of autobiographical travel writing in India, the author desribes his encounter with a force in his life which shocked him into an awareness of a need for self-examination and self-explanation. V.S. Naipul has also written 13 works of fiction and won the 2001 Nobel Prize for Literature.
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