V.S. Naipaul, Energy and Writing

Title: Charlie Rose | V.S. Naipaul
Source: http://www.hulu.com/watch/197846
Date: November 23, 2010
Interview Length: 0:11:38

V.S. Naipaul has published 30+ books and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001. He talks about his book The Masque of Africa and a bit about his background in this interview.

The Masque of Africa and Energy

For this book, the political and financial side of African countries interested him less than the beliefs and drive of its peoples. He wanted to understand what made them do they things they do.

After his conversations with people, he came across the idea of "Energy." Because Africa is such a difficult place to live in (extremes of climate, water, etc.), people need to have a lot of energy to just live there.

He spoke to an academic of mixed african and french parentage. This academic's idea was that Africa is made for animals and not men. Though he didn’t agree with this idea, he thought it should be investigated.

How he does his work

Naipaul spoke for a bit about how he does his research for travel writing. He typically talks to people and their interests, and after some conversations, he feels guided in a particular direction. Writers who travel have to find the right people to talk to. A primary skill of such a writer is knowing if there is something that is worth writing after a conversation with a person or not.

The idea of magic is important to him. He thinks a lot of people need this magic to simply live life. He’s interested in the “Earth Religions” and pagan beliefs.

He doesn’t find that he was influenced by Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” as it has a short narrative and ends in a “corny way.”

On his personality and his life

People have attacked Naipaul for his personality. He thinks he’s a sitting duck in a way and gets irritated when people attack him. He knows he shouldn’t get irritated, but he still feels it.

He would like people to pay attention to his writing, which he calls a “gift.” This gift was given to him by his father. He would like biographers to investigate how he became such a talented writer. His father read to him and educated him.

Naipaul would have advised his father of a few things if he could now:

  • Avoid mystery
  • Give people proper names
  • Give them proper jobs
  • Set them in proper places
  • Give them an understanding of the world in which they are

When an author does that, their writing gets better. Naipaul worries that his father’s writing is fading.

The stuff I’ve inherited in this way has been a great source of comfort and strength to me (V.S. Naipaul)