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It has become the fashion to knock VS Naipaul. Yes, he is a fine prose stylist, and has written some good books (so the wisdom goes), but his recent novels have been shapeless and repetitive and his writing abilities have been eclipsed by his general grumpiness and his reactionary views on such matters as race and multiculturalism.

This account, while reasonable in many ways, leaves out what it is that made Naipaul such a good and original writer in the first place. In his elegant review of Naipaul’s new essay collection in the latest issue of Prospect, Ian Jack reminds…

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