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Half a Life

About the Book

Half a Life

Half a Life is the story of Willie Chandran, whose father, heeding the call of Mahatma Gandhi, turned his back on his Brahmin heritage and married a woman of low caste–a disastrous union he would live to regret, as he would the children that were a product of it. When Willie reaches manhood, his flight from the travails of his mixed birth takes him from India to London, where, in the shabby haunts of immigrants and literary bohemians of the 1950s, he contrives a new identity. He buries his self-doubt in sexual adventures and in the struggle to become a writer–strivings that bring him to the brink of exhaustion, from which he is rescued, to his amazement, only by the love of a good woman. Together they return to her home to live out the last doomed days of colonialism, while Willie remains a passive bystander in yet another life that is not his own.

In a spare and beautifully crafted narrative that takes us across three continents, Naipaul explores his great theme of inheritance with an intimacy and directness unsurpassed in his extraordinary body of work. And even as he lays bare the bitter comical ironies of assumed identities, he gives us a poignant spectacle of the enervation peculiar to the borrowed life. In one man's determined rejection of his own circumstance, Naipaul reveals a universal experience. As Willie comes to see, "Everything goes on a bias. The world should stop, but it goes on" [p. 106]. A masterpiece of economy and emotional nuance, Half a Life is an indelible feat of the imagination.

Half a Life
by V. S. Naipaul

  • Publication Date: October 8, 2002
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • ISBN-10: 037570728X
  • ISBN-13: 9780375707285