49 Fascinating V. S. Naipaul Quotes

V. S. Naipaul is a Nobel Prize winning British writer born in Trinidad. Known for his more than thirty books published in fiction and nonfiction over the course of five decades, here is a look at some of the most notable V. S. Naipaul quotes.

“A businessman is someone who buys at ten and is happy to get out at twelve. The other kind of man buys at ten, sees it rise to eighteen and does nothing. He is waiting for it to rise to twenty. When it drops to two he waits for it to get back to ten.”

“A civilization which has taken over the world cannot be said to be dying.”

“After all, we make ourselves according to the ideas we have of our possibilities.”

“All the details of the life and the quirks and the friendships can be laid out for us, but the mystery of the writing will remain. No amount of documentation, however fascinating, can take us there.”

“An autobiography can distort; facts can be realigned. But fiction never lies: it reveals the writer totally.”

“And it was strange, I thought, that sorrow lasts and can make a man look forward to death, but the mood of victory fills a moment and then is over”


“As a child I knew almost nothing, nothing beyond what I had picked up in my grandmother’s house. All children, I suppose, come into the world like that, not knowing who they are.”

“But everything of value about me is in my books.”

“Each book, intuitively sensed and, in the case of fiction, intuitively worked out, stands on what has gone before, and grows out of it.”

“Great writing can be done in biography, history, art.”

“Home is, I suppose just a child’s idea. A house at night, and a lamp in the house. A place to feel safe.”

“I always knew who I was and where I had come from. I was not looking for a home in other people’s lands.”

“I don’t feel I can speak with authority for many other people.”

“I grew up in a small place and left it when I was quite young and entered the bigger world.”

“I have a very small public.”

“I have always moved by intuition alone. I have no system, literary or political. I have no guiding political idea.”

“I have trusted to my intuition to find the subjects, and I have written intuitively. I have an idea when I start, I have a shape; but I will fully understand what I have written only after some years.”

“I know my father and my mother, but beyond that I cannot go. My ancestry is blurred.”

“I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not.”

“I will say I am the sum of my books.”

“If a writer doesn’t generate hostility, he is dead.”

“If ever you wish to meet intellectual frauds in quantity, go to Paris.”

“If it was Europe that gave us on the coast some idea of our history, it was Europe, I feel, that also introduced us to the lie.”

“Ignorant people in preppy clothes are more dangerous to America than oil embargoes.”

“It has had a calamitous effect on converted peoples. To be converted you have to destroy your past, destroy your history. You have to stamp on it, you have to say ‘my ancestral culture does not exist, it doesn’t matter’.”

“It is wrong to have an ideal view of the world. That’s where the mischief starts. That’s where everything starts unravelling…”

“It’s very attractive to people to be a victim. Instead of having to think out the whole situation, about history and your group and what you are doing… if you begin from the point of view of being a victim, you’ve got it half-made. I mean intellectually.”

“Life is a helluva thing. You can see trouble coming and you can’t do a damn thing to prevent it coming. You just got to sit and watch and wait.”

“Making a book is such a big enterprise.”

“Many writers tend to write summing-up books at the end of their lives.”

“Most people are not really free. They are confined by the niche in the world that they carve out for themselves. They limit themselves to fewer possibilities by the narrowness of their vision.”

“My life is short. I can’t listen to banality.”

“One always writes comedy at the moment of deepest hysteria.”

“One isn’t born one’s self. One is born with a mass of expectations, a mass of other people’s ideas – and you have to work through it all.”

“People come and go all the time; the world has always been in movement.”

“Small things start us in new ways of thinking”

“Some lesser husbands built a latrine on the hillside.”

“That element of surprise is what I look for when I am writing. It is my way of judging what I am doing – which is never an easy thing to do.”

“The family feuds or the village feuds often had to do with an idea of honor. Perhaps it was a peasant idea; perhaps this idea of honor is especially important to a society without recourse to law or without confidence in law.”

“The melancholy thing about the world is that it is full of stupid people; and the world is run for the benefit of the stupid and common.”

“The only lies for which we are truly punished are those we tell ourselves.”

“The world is always in movement.”

“The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.”

“The world outside existed in a kind of darkness; and we inquired about nothing.”

“This is unusual for me. I have given readings and not lectures. I have told people who ask for lectures that I have no lecture to give. And that is true.”

“To read a newspaper for the first time is like coming into a film that has been on for an hour. Newspapers are like serials. To understand them you have to take knowledge to them; the knowledge that serves best is the knowledge provided by the newspaper itself.”

“To this day, if you ask me how I became a writer, I cannot give you an answer. To this day, if you ask me how a book is written, I cannot answer. For long periods, if I didn’t know that somehow in the past I had written a book, I would have given up.”

“We cannot understand all the traits we have inherited. Sometimes we can be strangers to ourselves.”

“What was past was past. I suppose that was the general attitude.”

Here is an interview with Charlie Rose and V. S. Naipaul.

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