Between Father and Son

Family Letters

Publisher: Vintage Canada
In 1950, after winning a scholarship from the government of Trinidad, V. S. Naipaul, aged seventeen, left home for the first time. Following a two-week journey by steamer, he arrived in Oxford, England, a world utterly removed from the one he had longed to escape and to which he would never really return. This extraordinary collection of letters gives us, as nothing published previously has, an intimate view of Naipaul's formative years.

It is a story of family members oceans apart, clinging to one another against the sadness of dislocation and isolation: The young Naipaul, desperate not for a degree but to become a writer and make his way in the world. His beloved sister Kamla, anxious and bewildered, away at school in India. And his melancholy but loving father, whose own broken dream of succeeding as a writer would be realized in the singular achievement of his son.

With the satisfactions of a novel, Between Father and Son portrays a deeply affecting family drama, even as it bears witness to the flowering of one of the great literary geniuses of the century.

From the Hardcover edition.


I September 21, 1949 – September 22, 1950 port of spain to oxford

Trinidad September 21, 1949 Dear Kamla,*

I wonder what is the matter with this typewriter. It looks all right now, though. I am enclosing some cuttings which, I am sure, will delight you. You will note that I went after all to the Old...
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"A telling portrait of the artist as a young man and a fascinating map to the autobiographical underpinnings of what is arguably Mr. Naipaul's finest novel, A House for Mr. Biswas."
—The New York Times

"A narrative that never palls: We are enthralled as by a compelling epistolary novel."
—The Washington Post Book World

"Shocking.... Captivating.... The Naipaul family letters speak eloquently of loneliness and deracination, but at the heart of the book is a very moving story about becoming a writer."
The Boston Globe