There is a feature that has often marked the dust jackets of V.S. Naipaul's books. We are first given some perfunctory details about the writer's birth in Trinidad, his education at University College, Oxford, and the year, 1954, when he began to write in London. And then, like a card being put on the table with a quiet confidence, comes the statement: "He has pursued no other profession." If this were not a fact, delivered with seriousness and utterly credible, one would have taken it as a boast. Regardless, to understand the Nobel Committee's decision to award the 2001 prize for literature to Naipaul, we must ask what that statement means to us and also, of course, to Naipaul himself.