Books: The Gift of a Second Life THE ENIGMA OF ARRIVAL

by V.S. Naipaul; Knopf; 368 pages; $17.95

Although it is called a novel, The Enigma of Arrival stretches the line between fiction and autobiography nearly to the vanishing point. The unnamed narrator is a writer in his mid-50s, an Indian and a Hindu, born in Trinidad, educated at Oxford, who has traveled extensively and lived most of his adult life in England. This person, in other words, is indistinguishable from V.S. Naipaul; and the personality, the tone of voice and cast of mind displayed here resemble the prose of Naipaul's nonfiction (Among the Believers; India: A Wounded Civilization) more closely than that of his other nine novels, including...

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