Literary Occasions by V. S. Naipaul is a collection of a few long essays and also appended to it is the Nobel Prize lecture that we also know as the Banquet Speech. This collection opens the door to many facets of the versatile personality of the great novelist that we know. An Indian by heart and a Trinidadian by birth, Naipaul always kept his heart before his mind and that is why we see in his novels, the greatest and the average of them, many things that reflect Indianness. Yes, just like Indianness in Indian English poetry, we can also trace Indianness in Indian English novels.
The first essay (rather the prologue – on reading and writing) outlines the psychological leanings of the author and we get to learn more about V. S. Naipaul’s interest in reading and writing and his passage as a novelist – how did it happen and why and also the how is answered in this essay. In all the long essays in this book, Naipaul digs out what interested him and what he did out of these interests. Yes, as a reader, it is seldom that you can escape from being impressed by his brilliance with the words and the ideas to order these words in the best positions to create the magic of an enchanting language flow.
In part 2 of the essays, Naipaul takes on the works by Nirad Chaudhury and Joseph Conrad and critiques them. In critiquing, there is no fun but a great sense of critical and objective appeal about the writing of Naipaul. He analyses the points he mentions very carefully and brings the best and the worst of the writing out to the readers very carefully. A critic-to-be can benefit a lot from his writings in this tone. And I am sure that many people will take note of his style in writing a critical essay on someone else’s works.
To cut short, Literary Occasions by V. S. Naipaul is a work that will impress many readers and it has to, in ideal cases. The literary students, especially, must read this book to understand what literary non-fiction, in its best flesh and blood, looks like and reads like. If you miss it, you will miss a lot of India’s tradition of critical writing that V S Naipaul had started once and, perhaps, that died with his literary death. You can get a copy of this amazing book from Amazon India here:
review by Nishant Sinha