When asked how he came to be a writer, Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul said because writing was all he had ever wanted to do
Speaking at a panel titled “The Writer and the World” at Dhaka Lit Fest 2016 Friday evening, the Nobel laureate and one of the most celebrated writers of modern times said: “If I hadn’t kept on writing, I would have had nothing to do.”
As hundreds of people sat in rapt attention at the jam-packed Abdul Karim Sahitya Bisharod auditorium in Bangla Academy, Sir Vidia, along with his wife Lady Nadira Naipaul, reminisced about his early days as a writer.
“I wanted to be a writer because of my father,” he told Ahsan Akbar, co-director of Dhaka Lit Fest who moderated the panel. “Then, to be a writer, you have to have something to write about. I discovered very early that I had nothing to write about; someone had to do something about that.”
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His beginning in the world of writing was simply to find out what he had to write about, he said.
“It was the anxiety of our time … what I was going to do and everything else that happened to me when I came out into the world … I had to work out all of that,” he continued.
“I will say that to ask this question now is for me to forget all of that horrible anxiety of being a writer, of having something to write about. It was a great thrill, you know… and, well, I did succeed in doing something.
“I have found many people wishing to be writers who had the same kind of anxiety.”
He also spoke about how “Miguel Street,” his collection of short stories set in the wartime Trinidad and Tobago, came to be.
“I came down to Oxford, hung around London for a bit, and had this thing about having nothing to write about. I became really irritated with myself. I decided I had to do something about it. I had to begin to write,” he said.
“Difficult thing to do, because the essence of being a writer is that you have all these anxiety, you have all this work to do, you cannot play the fool with the idleness.”
He said he had set out to begin writing like a blind man one day, locking himself in a room known as the “freelancers’ room” at the BBC office until he had something to write about.
“I began to write something. I didn’t know what I was going to write and where it was going to take me, but I began to write something. What I did was a bit of magic with myself; I said I would not leave that room until I knew what I was writing. That is how it began.”
And then as life went on, he went on experiencing different things, which later became his muse for writing.
This is Sir Vidia’s first visit to Bangladesh, but not for Lady Naipaul.
“If I had not carried a little bit of Bengal in me, Vidia would never be in Dhaka,” she said when asked why they accepted the invitation to visit here.
“My very happy years as a teenager were spent in Dhaka … I loved it. It was a part of me,” she continued.
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“Some ties cannot be cut. Geopolitical realities change, politics changes, everything changes. But some love cannot be forgotten. I love Bangla, I love Bengalis, I love Bengal, it is a part of us. So I told Vidia: ‘You must go. We must see it.’”
Besides the panel hosting the Naipauls, the second day of Dhaka Lit Fest saw a barrage of visitors.
From 10am to 7:30pm, the day covered music, dance performances, poetry recitations, and discussions on women and the power of feminism in today’s world, adventures, literature, politics, mysticism and many more.
“It feels excellent to be here,” said Samia, a government service holder who lives in Uttara. “I am here not only to attend the various sessions but also to meet the brilliant minds from home and abroad.”