Half a Life by V.S. Naipaul

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In a narrative that moves with dreamlike swiftness from India to England to Africa, Nobel Laureate V. S. Naipaul has produced his finest novel to date, a bleakly resonant study of the fraudulent bargains that make up an identity.

The son of a Brahmin ascetic and his lower-caste wife, Willie Chandran grows up sensing the hollowness at the core of his father's self-denial and vowing to live more authentically. That search takes him to the immigrant and literary bohemias of 1950s London, to a facile and unsatisfying career as a writer, and at last to a decaying Portugese colony in East Africa, where he finds a happiness he will then be compelled to betray. Brilliantly orchestrated, at once elegiac and devastating in its portraits of colonial grandeur and pretension, Half a Life represents the pinnacle of Naipaul's career.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About V.S. Naipaul

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V. S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad in 1932. He went to England on a scholarship in 1950. After four years at Oxford he began to write, and since then he has followed no other profession. He is the author of more than twenty books of fiction and nonfiction and the recipient of numerous honors, including the Nobel Prize in 2001, the Booker Prize in 1971, and a knighthood for services to literature in 1990. He lives in Wiltshire, England.
Published April 25, 2009 by Vintage. 223 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Half a Life

Kirkus Reviews

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Willie’s timid entry into London intellectual life and journalistic labors, terrified ascension to authorship (of a book of stories that sounds very like Naipaul’s own debut, Miguel Street), and conflicted assimilation into the privileged world of Portuguese colonials who luxuriate in “comfort .

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The New York Times

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For in Britain Willie soon begins to put together a sequence of short stories, tales placed against the ''vague'' background of ''a palace with domes and turrets, a secretariat'' as well as ''a hermitage with an unreliable holy man.'' The work comes quickly, too quickly, and its emotions are fake...

Oct 28 2001 | Read Full Review of Half a Life

The Guardian

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Half a Life V S Naipaul 224pp, Picador, £15.99 Only someone who knows V S Naipaul's life and work well would have recognised a familiar event that preceded the publication of Half a Life, the slightest book Naipaul has ever written and unquestionably the weirdest.

Sep 01 2001 | Read Full Review of Half a Life

The Guardian

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But his experiences as a colonial in the metropolis - closely informed by those of the young Naipaul himself - are a chain of disappointments: his first book of stories falls stillborn from the presses, he is sexually frustrated and haunted by feelings of inauthenticity, a 'stranger here with the...

Aug 26 2001 | Read Full Review of Half a Life

Publishers Weekly

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Naipaul's detached rendering of Willie's travails shows what happens to a young man who pieces his life together around the great, central dread of not being taken seriously—the image of his father as an "idler" is always in his mind.

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Book Reporter

Naipaul, this year's recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, has managed to combine the power of the honor with the power of great timing, as his first novel in seven years, HALF A LIFE, hit bookstore shelves just days after the announcement that he had won the award.

Oct 16 2001 | Read Full Review of Half a Life

AV Club

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In exquisite, exactingly crafted prose, Naipaul brings characters together and then sets them adrift, building to a quiet moment when Willie and Ana, two world travelers estranged from the very idea of "home," come to the mutual revelation that their vitality has been spent in avoiding struggle.

Mar 29 2002 | Read Full Review of Half a Life

London Review of Books

By the munificence of another English grandee who had visited his father’s ashram, Willie goes to London and takes up a place at a college of education.

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The New York Review of Books

As beginning writers, for instance, both Willie and Naipaul find inspiration in Hollywood, but Willie is far less literate than Naipaul, who used as models Evelyn Waugh, Aldous Huxley, and (it comes as no surprise) Somerset Maugham, with his characteristically English tone, “aloof everywhere, uns...

Nov 01 2001 | Read Full Review of Half a Life

India Today

It was not the end of the journey, but it looked like the end of the story for Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul when he famously witnessed the funeral rites of an art form called the novel.

Sep 03 2001 | Read Full Review of Half a Life

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