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|October 13, 2001|
The Rediff Special/ Arthur J Pais
Recommended reading for George W Bush this week: V S Naipaul, particularly his two books about Islam. Among the Believers and Beyond Belief.
''Everyone who's trying to understand the (Taleban, Islamic fundamentalism) situation right now ought to read Among the Believers," says Feroza Jussawalla.
"In fact, I think President Bush should read it,'' Jussawalla, professor of English at the University of New Mexico and editor of Conversations with V S Naipaul told a reporter.
As the Nobel laureate's critics have declared a new jihad on him, his supporters like Jussawalla are fortifying the defense.
"Naipaul is a blunt man, in writing and in his talk," says Ismail Merchant, director of The Mystic Masseur, Naipaul's first published work - and the only filmed version of his books. The movie which will be shown at the London International Film Festival next month and begin rolling out across America in February.
"Many people do not like Naipaul's views but there is no denying the humanity of his work," Merchant adds.
Naipaul's new novel, Half a Life, is being released in America on Tuesday, October 16, and it has already got a handful of raves in influential trade publications but to some writers and editors what matters most at the moment is Naipaul's criticism of the spread of Islam.
' A critic of Islam wins Nobel Prize': The headline in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Friday made it apparent the thrust of its article on V S Naipaul.
Its lead declared:
But for Sonny Mehta, president and editor in chief of Knopf, the publisher of Half a Life, the negative criticism did not worry him.
'We at Knopf are immensely proud to be his publisher,' he said in a statement. 'As a master of English prose, Naipaul has no peer. As a visionary -- dealing in countless ways with themes of alienation, emigration, the spell of the past, colonialism, and the struggles of the Third World -- his work has a resonance and portent more relevant than ever before to the world in which we live.'
Several months ago Knopf had decided to roll out 40,000 copies of Half a Life.
Now, with Naipaul winning the Nobel Prize and concomitant wide coverage in newspapers and magazines, Knopf is mulling over a second printing.
Half a Life, hits the American bookstores on October 16, and Naipaul begins his US tour beginning October 28. Though the original schedule included five cities, booksellers in many other cities are asking for Naipaul.
Knopf said The New Yorker is running an excerpt from the novel next week. Within hours of the announcement of the Nobel Prize, Knopf decided to reissue The Mystic Masseur, and 24 other Naipaul books that followed it.
Vintage, the paperback division of Knopf, will reissue The Mystic Masseur and The Middle Passage in January. Knopf will publish The Writer and the World, a collection of Naipaul's essays, on August 17, 2002, on the writer's 70th birthday.
Meanwhile, Half a Life has received raves from several influential trade publications.
'Naipaul has been writing for 45 years and even readers new to his work will realize instantly that they're in the hands of a master,' Booklist wrote.
Next week, readers across America have a challenge: Could they turn Naipaul's new book into a national bestseller?
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