When one reads Naipaul's nonfictional essays, and compares them with his fictional works, one is most certainly not as impressed. In this prolific collection- 550+ pages, Naipaul documents his diverse essays, on diverse topics, from India to Anguilla, from New York, to Algeria. Let me begin with the first essay, which, not surprisingly, regards a visit to the city of Calcutta. There is a slight background material- about Trinidad, and then starts the prophet-of-doomsday attitude. One is almost irked when continually perusing through words like "decaying", "morbid", "ruin". If India would actually be a dying culture, it would have by now been history. But it still persists, flourishes, and exports it culture. Naipaul is relentlessly critical of Indians, deeming them "indifferent", "primitive", etc. He lashes out at Hinduism with a sudden passionate loathing- "The barbaric rituals of Hinduism are barbaric, the idea of the holy cow is absurd." All this gives an impression of a ceaslessly pessimistic man, who is born to extract only the most troubling aspects of Indians, ignoring the democracy, ignoring the culture, ignoring the slow progress, ignoring the values- in short, making a thorn of every petal. But, one must admit, Naipaul's opinions about India are true, and being an Indian myself, it is nothing extraordinary. But of cruelty, and malice, one does not approve- Naipaul's satire on the Indian accent: "Esomerset, Eshelly, Eshakespeare", is almost as if Naipaul is on some evil mission to forever degrade common people. If writing about such extraneous incidents is your idea of humor, Mr. Naipaul, certainly we do not approve it. This attitude of rooting out the utmost filth out of a poor country, reveals how depressed Naipaul is, and how audacious, let go haughty.
But there is something almost magical about Naipaul's words, his interpretations are often profound, and his humor cultivated. The second essay, about the election in Ajmer, is captivating. At the end, you feel as if there lies a novel in the entire essay on the election, and a good revelation on the politics of India. Gradually, the essays become less profound, more documental, and more random. But one question still haunts- if Naipaul glorifies the West, and rubbishes the third world, how come most of his writings are on the third world, or non-western cultures? Why not write about Germany? The reason is that Naipaul finds material to criticize to be absent in the West- it merely serves as a model- a model of perfection, and a useful tool for deriding colonial peoples, though deriding impressively.