Saturday, April 23, 2005

Interview with Sir Vidia

V.S. NAIPAUL

March 3, 2000

I've been taking snapshots of cultures in difficult stages, or civilizations in difficult stages. I'm doing it purely in human terms, seeing the pressures worked out in people's lives. That's what I've been doing a lot of since I began traveling, especially those Islamic books and the books about India, exploring that side of one's inheritance, because although I come from the Caribbean-- Trinidad-- I'm of Indian origin, and the Indian experience has always been interesting to me and necessary for me to explore and to come to terms with. You see, my interest begins with my community and my place of birth. My community commits me to an exploration of India and the Islamic world. My place of birth commits me to an understanding of the new world, the Spanish invasion, slavery, revolution in the new world. It also commits me to an attempt to understand Africa. So from that starting point, I have looked at the world, or tried to look at the world, and this is the venture I've been engaged in. It's lasted a long time.

The thing about the novel is that you carry only so much experience in yourself, so you quickly come to an end of the material because to write imaginatively, you do a kind of intimate processing of your own experience, if you're a serious writer. But the person who, as it were, converts experience into imaginative adventure, he can only do a limited amount of work. I did my own background. I did about people moving around the world. Then I was interested in the world. I have a great interest in the world and I had to find ways of expressing my interest in the world, so that's why I turned to doing these travel books. It didn't... they were not strictly about me traveling. They were about the people I was among. And they weren't about great characters, they were about cultures, civilizations.

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