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Collected Short Fiction

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For the first time: the Nobel Prize winner’s stunning short fiction collected in one volume, with an introduction by the author. Over the course of his distinguished career, V. S. Naipaul has written a remarkable array of short fiction that moves from Trinidad to London to Africa. Here are the stories from his Somerset Maugham Award–winning Miguel Street (1959), in which he For the first time: the Nobel Prize winner’s stunning short fiction collected in one volume, with an introduction by the author. Over the course of his distinguished career, V. S. Naipaul has written a remarkable array of short fiction that moves from Trinidad to London to Africa. Here are the stories from his Somerset Maugham Award–winning Miguel Street (1959), in which he takes us into a derelict corner of Trinidad’s capital to meet, among others, Man-Man, who goes from running for public office to staging his own crucifixion. The tales in A Flag on the Island (1967), meanwhile, roam from a Chinese bakery in Trinidad to a rooming house in London. And in the celebrated title story from the Booker Prize– winning In a Free State (1971), an English couple traveling in an unnamed African country discover, under a veneer of civilization, a landscape of squalor and ethnic bloodletting. No writer has rendered our postcolonial world more acutely or prophetically than V. S. Naipaul, or given its upheavals such a hauntingly human face.


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For the first time: the Nobel Prize winner’s stunning short fiction collected in one volume, with an introduction by the author. Over the course of his distinguished career, V. S. Naipaul has written a remarkable array of short fiction that moves from Trinidad to London to Africa. Here are the stories from his Somerset Maugham Award–winning Miguel Street (1959), in which he For the first time: the Nobel Prize winner’s stunning short fiction collected in one volume, with an introduction by the author. Over the course of his distinguished career, V. S. Naipaul has written a remarkable array of short fiction that moves from Trinidad to London to Africa. Here are the stories from his Somerset Maugham Award–winning Miguel Street (1959), in which he takes us into a derelict corner of Trinidad’s capital to meet, among others, Man-Man, who goes from running for public office to staging his own crucifixion. The tales in A Flag on the Island (1967), meanwhile, roam from a Chinese bakery in Trinidad to a rooming house in London. And in the celebrated title story from the Booker Prize– winning In a Free State (1971), an English couple traveling in an unnamed African country discover, under a veneer of civilization, a landscape of squalor and ethnic bloodletting. No writer has rendered our postcolonial world more acutely or prophetically than V. S. Naipaul, or given its upheavals such a hauntingly human face.

30 review for Collected Short Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Osvaldo Santiago

    This was a book I had to put down for a while because the collection of short stories contained therein by V.S. Naipaul is a relentless exploration of the displacement experienced by those who find themselves in social contexts in which they comprise the outcasts or the outliers. This treatment, although moving, enlightening, and cathartic (in many respects), is also painful, paralyzing (temporarily at least), and full of pathos. The stories of Miguel Street show a Trinidad populated by colorful This was a book I had to put down for a while because the collection of short stories contained therein by V.S. Naipaul is a relentless exploration of the displacement experienced by those who find themselves in social contexts in which they comprise the outcasts or the outliers. This treatment, although moving, enlightening, and cathartic (in many respects), is also painful, paralyzing (temporarily at least), and full of pathos. The stories of Miguel Street show a Trinidad populated by colorful characters but who only exist as the ruled, against the backdrop of the rulers, i.e. Great Britain and the US. What Naipaul sketches so well is the psychological and social discontinuity of his characters, presumably people he knew or even himself (an assumption I make based on the stark similarity to persons I know or to my own observed psychological complexities), as the main character from each story fights to maintain the integrity of his or her soul in a world in which it is a struggle to survive. At the same time life seems to pulsate with so much promise and joy, but seemingly only for those who have brought the struggle to Trinidad (and other colonized places) or those colonized persons willing to allow the psychic break from their heritage and be, not just accustomed to but, assimilated by the ruling culture. The novelette, "A Flag on the Island," is an exploration of the growing self-consciousness of a colonized people and the complexities, contradictions, and correlatives found in becoming more like the rulers, deconstructing that same self-consciousness, realizing that it is a further extension of colonial thinking. "One out of Many" is the tale of a man from Bombay who moves to Washington and experiences a profound challenge to his self-identity in the America of the 1960s. My favorite passage is from "A Flag on the Island" as the narrator describes the character Mr. Blackwhite, an educated "native" who is not quite black and not quite white, who finds himself in a moment of self-forgetfulness as the characters in the story await a desctructive storm: "We saw Blackwhite dancing with Leonard. Blackwhite not white, not black, but Blackwhite as we all would have liked to see him, a man released from endeavour, released from the strain of seeing himself (portrait of the artist: the tribal subconscious), at peace with the world, accepting, like Leonard" (313). These stories are a cry and a plea that each human being could understand, that is, a desire to be a creature on this earth before God without needing to justify your existence to another.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    The author's reputation as one of the greatest English language writers of the 20th Century is well deserved. I had previously read two of his novels, and after reading his obituary two weeks ago in the Economist, I figured reading his collected short fiction pieces to be a good way to commemorate his life. His work is often dark & depressing, and happy endings are relatively rare. His genius lies in his ability to catch the human condition of the dispossessed and those who can never fully fit i The author's reputation as one of the greatest English language writers of the 20th Century is well deserved. I had previously read two of his novels, and after reading his obituary two weeks ago in the Economist, I figured reading his collected short fiction pieces to be a good way to commemorate his life. His work is often dark & depressing, and happy endings are relatively rare. His genius lies in his ability to catch the human condition of the dispossessed and those who can never fully fit in starkly and clearly. When he turns to humor, it stands out all the more starkly because of the dark background. Growing up as a Sub Continent Indian in Trinidad, one of many minorities in a Caribbean Island British Colony, and often feeling like finding a place in the world was an inscrutable challenge, his characterization of the very well intentioned, absent minded form of colonial oppression is probably as good as it is ever going to get. He was truly a great writer. I'm confident his reputation will not be diminished by the test of time.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Aviad Eilam

    Naipaul‘s writing seems to mature and the stories grow more complex, personal and interesting over the course of the collection, the highlight being the later tales of immigration and alienation.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    The stories in Miguel Street are breathtaking - I could not put the book down. Sort of like a Dubliners for Trinidad and Tobago in that the series of short stories provide a vivid portrait of a point in time, in this case stories of one street on the island during WWII and near the end of Britain's rule. More than worth the price of admission. A Flag on the Island was also great and expanded its focus from the Island to include foreign tenants in an English boarding house and a few other miscell The stories in Miguel Street are breathtaking - I could not put the book down. Sort of like a Dubliners for Trinidad and Tobago in that the series of short stories provide a vivid portrait of a point in time, in this case stories of one street on the island during WWII and near the end of Britain's rule. More than worth the price of admission. A Flag on the Island was also great and expanded its focus from the Island to include foreign tenants in an English boarding house and a few other miscellaneous stories (including a comedic one about a hotel security guard); the title story was intended to be a comedic screenplay that misses the authenticity of Naipaul's other stories - the story feels contrived and lacks the effortless flow of the other stories. The short stories from In a Free State address the feeling of displacement of foreigners in a new land. Insightful and enlightening. Overall I enjoyed the book but enjoyed the early stories best. I will definitely read A House for Mr. Biswas.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Polansky

    Right, well, look, any honest list of the 10 best authors of the 20th century will have Naipaul on it. Top 20 certainly. There probably is not another writer alive who can claim so impressively diverse a body of work. These are good particularly the first part, his Miguel Street stories, about the lives of his neighbors in a Trindad side street. That said, some of the later ones flag a bit, and, to be blunt, this is probably not Naipaul at his best. If you haven't read him yet, and you really sh Right, well, look, any honest list of the 10 best authors of the 20th century will have Naipaul on it. Top 20 certainly. There probably is not another writer alive who can claim so impressively diverse a body of work. These are good particularly the first part, his Miguel Street stories, about the lives of his neighbors in a Trindad side street. That said, some of the later ones flag a bit, and, to be blunt, this is probably not Naipaul at his best. If you haven't read him yet, and you really should, start with A Bend in the River if you want fiction or basically any of his non-fiction, particularly the ones having to do with India and Trinidad itself. Really this is more for the Naipaul completist, but still it's far from a waste of anyone's time.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cordellya Smith

    This book was surprisingly good. I had never heard of V.S. Naipaul before I read this, but it will not be the last of his writing that I read. I love that it was structured in short stories that provided a glimpse into each of the characters he described and that this specific collection allowed you to see the same character at different points in time.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    Really amazing - it is clear why Naipaul has received so many accolades. Tonally gradient in a unidirectional way, from the lightness of the “Miguel Street” stories to the quiet, tragic power of “One out of Many.” It took a long time to read, but I’m glad I did. (Only quibble: no major female characters, women always seen in relation to men, often not kindly)

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nausheen

    "To be the ascetic, to be mild and gentle and soft-spoken, withdrawn and ineffectual; to have created for oneself that little clearing in the jungle of the mind; and constantly to reassure oneself that the clearing still existed." "To be the ascetic, to be mild and gentle and soft-spoken, withdrawn and ineffectual; to have created for oneself that little clearing in the jungle of the mind; and constantly to reassure oneself that the clearing still existed."

  9. 4 out of 5

    May Tam

    The honest truth is I haven’t finished all the stories. But the heaviness left in me from the stories I have read... it’s too much for my heart to take. I am moved. I am transported. I am stunned.

  10. 4 out of 5

    D.B. Sertaine

    A pleasure to survey the author's style from early beginnings to late work. Felt the punch of the early work, which staged a kind of dreadful pantomime, to the dark nuance of later years. A pleasure to survey the author's style from early beginnings to late work. Felt the punch of the early work, which staged a kind of dreadful pantomime, to the dark nuance of later years.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nessie

    3.5 I really liked the short stories at the start of the book; they were amusing and very West Indian. The others did not strike my fancy at all. one short story I could not understand at all. The rest I didn't care for. He is a wonderful writer, though. 3.5 I really liked the short stories at the start of the book; they were amusing and very West Indian. The others did not strike my fancy at all. one short story I could not understand at all. The rest I didn't care for. He is a wonderful writer, though.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alia Makki

    So many voices in one book can be confusing. Might be better if each voice was stretched in longer voice. But, sadness needs no linguistic pretty. Sadness is a universal truth. In every language.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sam Mcevoy

    Good leisure read. Good for a quick noncommittal read. I would read this before bedtime if I'm looking to not get too caught up in a book. Good leisure read. Good for a quick noncommittal read. I would read this before bedtime if I'm looking to not get too caught up in a book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Read about half the stories. Enjoyed them but not enough to finish all the collections.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Linda

  16. 4 out of 5

    .frances

  17. 4 out of 5

    Farjana Khanom

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rodrigo Bauler

  19. 5 out of 5

    Vibhuti Bhandarkar

  20. 5 out of 5

    Azuolas

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ubaid Dhiyan

  22. 4 out of 5

    Suraj Alva

  23. 4 out of 5

    Martine Randolph

  24. 4 out of 5

    Naheed NW

  25. 4 out of 5

    Whitfield Jack

  26. 4 out of 5

    Shivanna

  27. 5 out of 5

    David Day

  28. 5 out of 5

    F. Calheiros

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mayling

  30. 5 out of 5

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