Amitava Kumar

Amitava Kumar is Professor of English at Vassar Collegend is the author of Husband of a Fanatic.

Recent Articles

Literature: The Humor and the Pity

T here 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. Naipaul's father, Seepersad, worked as a journalist for a Trinidad newspaper. In 1943, when V.S. Naipaul was 11 years old, his father published a volume of short stories called "The Adventures of Gurudeva" and Other Indian Tales. The book was about 70 pages long; for the younger Naipaul, this modest,...