Monthly Archives: January 2015

Naipaul’s House

The Jaipur Litfest 2015 got off to a rousing start on 21st Jan. Diggi Palace was overflowing with the young and not-so thirsty for the intellectual fare on offer. A House for Mr Biswas was one such. Chaired by Farrukh Dhondy the panel consisted of Paul Theroux, Amit Chaudhuri and Hanif Kureishi. Dhondy praised House as one of the most truthful novels he had read along with Area of Darkness. It was, as he noted, the book’s 53rd anniversary and yet it was a truly modern novel.
The audience awaited Paul Theroux’s comments as his fabled friendship with Naipaul was as legendary as their subsequent falling out. But Mrs Naipaul indicated a thumbs up when “ups and downs” was mentioned. Theroux harked back to Kampala 1956 when he read House at a bus stop and broke into laughter at its humour. He said it was the most complete novel he had ever read, culturally whole. It was the rebel trying to find his place in society patiently working and waiting. He compared it to James Joyce’s Dubliners.
Hanif Kureishi claimed that reading House made him want to be a writer. Said it reminded him of his own father, a failure. He also felt all brown and black authors in the ’60s were referred to as Commonwealth writers, but Naipaul transcended the label and was truly international in stature.
Amit Chaudhuri came in on a witty note and said that Naipaul, along with maps of Kashmir and works of Nirad Chaudhuri, were considered contraband in his formative years.
In summing up, Dhondy felt that for Naipaul literature was his nationality. Theroux felt there was a great resemblance between him and Chekhov: ennui, despair, dynamic, helpless. Finally words applied to Narayan also to Naipaul’s hero: big talk, big dreams, limited means. Naipaul was then wheeled on stage by popular demand and thanked all panellists for being so kind and received a standing ovation.
Contributed by Dickoo Nowroji

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