This is a writer’s journal. And naturally for a writer, the closest subject to his/her heart is other writers, from all generations and not just fellow writers.
In the first essay ‘The worm in the bud’, author during his upbringing and formative years in Trinidad, narrates the authors who fascinated him, how poetry did not interest him in the beginning but made sense as he found the poems which brought out their meaning in simple but enchanting way.
The second essay’ An English way of looking’ is a critic of various British authors who put emphasis on English ways of living in their books. He dislikes many of the authors as he fails to understand their point of view in their works, but likes a few, Tony Powell among them.
In the third essay ‘Looking and not seeing: the Indian way’ author after exploring few Indian authors comes to the subject of making of MK Gandhi. He points out that the culture shock Gandhi had to face in South Africa led to a revolt in a shy, introvert lawyer. Had Gandhi was well read and was aware of the culture before he arrived in South Africa, he would have become just another migrant from India. Similarly he observes that Nehru, only after participating in peasant movement learnt how the poor lived in India and the blind faith those poor kept in Nehru made his will stronger and made him a socialist later.
In the fourth chapter ‘Disparate ways’ author revisits some of the literary works, classics, history of Rome and Greece.
In the last chapter ‘India Again: the Mahatma and the after’, author puts out his opinions on Vinobha Bhave and Nirad Chaudhuri and his work ‘The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian’.
V S Naipaul is a unique author and deeply opinionated on many subjects. His observations are stunning and contrast at the same time. It appears he has more hatred (and less pride) in his Indian origins, so some of his opinions might leave distaste in Indian reader. But for those readers who are tolerant, he shows how to read in between lines and how to dissect a literary masterpiece.