Magic Seeds by V. S. Naipaul

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Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul’s magnificent Magic Seeds continues the story of Willie Chandran, the perennially dissatisfied and self-destructively naive protagonist of his bestselling Half a Life.
Having left a wife and a livelihood in Africa, Willie is persuaded to return to his native India to join an underground movement on behalf of its oppressed lower castes. Instead he finds himself in the company of dilettantes and psychopaths, relentlessly hunted by police and spurned by the people he means to liberate. But this is only one stop in a quest for authenticity that takes in all the fanaticism and folly of the postmodern era. Moving with dreamlike swiftness from guerrilla encampment to prison cell, from the squalor of rural India to the glut and moral desolation of 1980s London, Magic Seeds is a novel of oracular power, dazzling in its economy and unblinking in its observations.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About V. S. Naipaul

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Born in Trinidad of Hindu parents, V. S. Naipaul was educated at Oxford University and has lived in Great Britain since 1950. With an exile's sensibility, Naipaul's writing is concerned with both the West Indies of his childhood and his strong identification with India. It focuses on personal and political freedom, the function of the writer and the nature of sexuality, and is characterized by clarity, subtlety, and detached irony of tone. The novel, Miguel Street (1959) describes the aberrant lives of a mean street in Port of Spain, Trinidad. A House for Mr. Biswas (1961), his most well-known work, solidified his reputation as a novelist. It tells the tragicomic story of the search for independence and identity of a Brahmin Indian living in Trinidad. Naipaul's work, even when he appears to be analyzing a picturesque character, is really an analysis of the entire society of Trinidad. The Middle Passage (1962) extends this analysis of the social order to other areas of the West Indies including Surinam, Martinique, Jamaica, and Guyana and finds that "the present character of the regions he visited express their history as colonial territories built on slave labor." Naipaul's work also deals with other parts of the world as well. In An Area of Darkness (1964), he expresses with sympathy and insight his observations on a trip to India, where he saw the loftiest of human values contrasted with the meanest physical suffering. His novel, A Bend in the River (1979) set in a new African nation, depicts the difficulties ordinary people face during times of political upheaval. A Turn in the South (1989) is a sensitive portrayal of the American South. Naipaul's works have elicited polarized responses, yet he is regarded by many as one of the best writers of our time, and he is a perennial nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature, which he finally won on October 11, 2001.
Published February 6, 2010 by Vintage. 290 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Political & Social Sciences. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Magic Seeds

The New York Times

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Willie is the latest exemplar of a type familiar to Naipaul's readers: the fanatical idealist drawn to what he somewhere calls ''pseudo-revolutions'' or, as he described the abortive 1983 revolt in Grenada that provoked an American invasion, ''socialist mimicry.'' Cheddi B.

Nov 28 2004 | Read Full Review of Magic Seeds

The New York Times

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V. S. Naipaul's new (and possibly final) novel revisits the themes that he's been grappling with over the past five decades.

Nov 28 2004 | Read Full Review of Magic Seeds

The Guardian

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Magic Seeds by VS Naipaul 304pp, Picador, £16.99 Magic Seeds is a sequel to Half a Life, in which Willie Chandran has travelled from India to become a student in London, and published a book of stories.

Sep 25 2004 | Read Full Review of Magic Seeds

Publishers Weekly

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Mandvi turns in a soft, reserved performance of Naipaul's novel about idealism, revolution and self-discovery.

Feb 07 2005 | Read Full Review of Magic Seeds

Entertainment Weekly

Originally posted Nov 19, 2004 Published in issue #793 Nov 19, 2004 Order article reprints

Nov 19 2004 | Read Full Review of Magic Seeds


Like his father, Willie looks to Gandhi’s life of commitment to the poor, and decides to join a movement aimed at liberating the lower castes in the forests of India.

Jan 05 2006 | Read Full Review of Magic Seeds

London Review of Books

She talks glibly about Lenin, Mao, ‘the Pol Pot position’ and the ‘the Lin-Piao line’ – ‘the words of someone still mimicking adulthood’ – and encourages him to take up a violent revolutionary cause.

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Bookmarks Magazine

Paul Bailey NY Times Book Review 2 of 5 Stars "Magic Seeds is a lazy book.

Jan 19 2008 | Read Full Review of Magic Seeds

New York Magazine

The novel follows the adventures of Willie Chandran, accidental man of the world, resident of dormitories and friends’ guest rooms, born in India to a high-caste father and a low-caste mother, whose escape to a teachers college in London and then his wife’s colonial estate in Africa we read about...

May 21 2005 | Read Full Review of Magic Seeds

India Today

Naipaul's comeback novel Half a Life, reached the end of the journey, stretching from a nameless remoteness in pre-Independence India to the bohemian immigrant life of 1950s London to the colonial half-and-half world of Portuguese Africa, all the while arguing with his own identity, with no idea ...

Sep 06 2004 | Read Full Review of Magic Seeds

Seeds betrays the adroit thinking that produced such politically informed works as Guerrillas or A Bend in the River, and concludes with some of the laziest writing Naipaul has ever let see the light of day.

Jan 05 2005 | Read Full Review of Magic Seeds

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