Writing to his eldest son Vidia in Oxford in 1950, Seepersad Naipaul observed: "Your letters are charming in their spontaneity. If you could write me letters about things and people--especially people--at Oxford, I could compile them in a book: Letters Between a Father and Son
or My Oxford Letters
. Nearly fifty years later, the father's desire has been fulfilled by the son with the publication of VS Naipaul's Letters Between a Father and Son
. The collection covers the period between Naipaul's departure from his native Trinidad in 1950 to study at Oxford, to the untimely death of his father in 1953 at the age of 47. Alongside the letters between father and son are those between Naipaul and his older sister, Kamla, a student at the Benares Hindu University in India, who is advised by her 17-year-old brother to watch your personal effects carefully; the Indians are a thieving lot.
At the heart of the book lies Naipaul's undergraduate life at Oxford and his father's deeply moving support for his son, as he strives to maintain his own writing career whilst he watches his son's own literary talent flower. The minutiae of Naipaul's college life offers a fascinating account of the genesis of the querulous, fussy and patrician Naipaul. Letters are full of stories of Naipaul's endless rounds of tea parties, writing for the Oxford journal Isis, flirting with European women and endless requests for cigarettes from home. But the most revealing and moving dimension of the collection is the love and friendship between father and son. Seepersad both vents his own literary frustrations upon his son, whilst at the same time assuring Naipaul of his own unconditional support: "I feel so darned cocksure that I can produce a novel within six months--if only I had nothing else to do. This is impossible. But I want to give you this chance." Seepersad's sudden death is very affecting, as is Naipaul's telegraphed response home: "Everything I owe to him." This is a deeply revealing collection of one of the most enigmatic writers of the post-war period, which offers an absorbing insight into Naipaul's early fiction, particularly The Mystic Masseur and Miguel Street. --JerryBrotton
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'...both heartening & terribly sad' -- Sunday Telegraph
'Consistently articulate, interesting, moving, & in many places, powerful. The book as a whole is invaluable' -- TLS
'It comes as something of a surprise to discover a relationship that reveals real love, born of a shared ambition' -- Financial Times
* 'What emerges is the heroism of selfbelief, despite the attrition of circumstances' -- INDEPENDENT