Hanif Kureishi novel echoes life of VS Naipaul

1302900g  The Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival,

The plot for the new novel by Hanif Kureishi is startlingly similar to the real-life meetings between VS Naipaul and his biographer Patrick French, Judith Welikala writes in this review for London’s Independent. Follow link below for video of author discussing the work.

Hanif Kureishi’s new novel bears an uncanny resemblance to the story behind Patrick French’s 2008 biography of Nobel Prize-winner VS Naipaul.

The Last Word is due for release in February 2014. In a promotional video released by publisher Faber and Faber, Kureishi gave an insight into the novel’s plotline.

“It’s mostly about two men,” he said. “An older Indian writer, a man in his early seventies and a younger man [in his] early thirties, a white Englishman, who goes to write his biography”.

Kureishi elaborated: “Mahmoon is an older Indian writer, very very successful who’s travelled, written novels and essays, plays and so on, and there’s a young man, very nervous, who comes to confront him.

“Then there’s Mahmoon’s wife, a really extravagant, crazy Italian woman, rather confined in the country but who is really good fun, and with whom our hero Harry strikes up a real friendship”.

French, a British writer and historian, first visited Naipaul in 2001 to interview him for his authorised biography The World Is What It Is. The Nobel laureate spoke with unusual frankness about his marriage to his university girlfriend Pat, who died in 1996. He told French: “It could be said that I had killed her… I feel a little bit that way.”

French was also given complete access to the Naipaul archives at the University of Tulsa, including letters Pat wrote to him that he never read.

Naipaul did not ask for a single word of the biography to be changed.

“It’s a very odd experience to have somebody else telling the truth of your own life,” Kureishi said, likening it to “having your own experience read back to you by an idiot”.

Kureishi said his latest novel is about the competitiveness between the two men. “It’s about their discussions about women, relationships with women and their arguments with and about women throughout the book.”

Kureishi described it as a “sort of English country comedy, quite light in some ways, but it’s also about some of the most serious things: sexuality, passion, love and writing”.

This would not be the first time Kureishi based his work on real-life events. His 2004 memoir My Ear at his Heart looks at his relationship with his father.

His acclaimed debut novel, The Buddha of Suburbia, about a young Asian man growing up in South London, is also semi-autobiographical.

The Last Word will be his first novel in nearly six years.

For the original report go to http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/10230926/Hanif-Kureishi-novel-echoes-life-of-VS-Naipaul.html

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