The Enigma of Arrival Background

The Enigma of Arrival Background

The Enigma of Arrival is a 1987 semi-autobiographical novel by V. S. Naipaul. The story tells of a young man from Trinidad who makes his way to England, and the novel thus encompasses themes related to the post-colonialism and imperialistic impact of British society on a writer. That writer has been determined to be quite clearly a thinly fictionalized version of Naipaul himself.

For instance, when the protagonist of The Enigma of Arrival arrives in the village of Wiltshire, the novel that he is working bears a strong similarity to the Naipaul’s own 1971 work, In a Free State. That book would go on to earn Naipaul the prestigious Booker Prize and solidify his reputation as one of the major writers of the latter half of the 20th century.

Many academic studies of Naipaul’s fiction have noted that the writing he was actually doing during the period covered fictionally in The Enigma of Arrival (roughly the quarter-century between 1950 and 1985) is among his darkest and most tonally intense, his recollection of that period as a semi-autobiographical recreation is notably lighter and lacking the bleak lack of hope. A return visit to the period of fecundity which would produce many of the masterworks responsible for his eventually winning the Nobel Prize for Literature is thus able to be presented from different perspective while ensuring the original outlook remains fully intact.

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