Born into poverty in colonial Trinidad, VS Naipaul won a scholarship to Oxford at the age of 17. Now 75, the Nobel laureate is widely regarded as Britain's greatest living writer. Patrick French was given unprecedented access to Sir Vidia and his sealed archive to write his biography, and in this extract examines his tortured first marriage and the 24-year love affair that fuelled his genius
Vidia Naipaul with his first wife, Pat, outside their flat in Streatham, south London, in 1961, the year he published his early masterpiece A House for Mr Biswas
Vidia, then aged 19, sat down to write to Pat. His tone was that of the would-be romantic lover. He was trying out a role, for he had never written a proper love letter, and did not know where to begin. Each sentence, each sentiment, seemed insincere, as if someone else might already have written it. 'Yes, darling, I am missing you very much. At odd moments, I seem to smell you (don't be angry: it's a pleasant smell)… I think of your room tonight - at St Hugh's - robbed of you, robbed of all its charm, its warmth, its cosiness. Allow me to be utterly un-British & to wallow in my sloppiness. I love you, my dear Pat, and I feel it grow stronger every day. Promise me one thing, though - read & destroy. I should hate to think that next term in one of your peevish moods, you should read this letter to me mockingly. A man who writes with sincerity usually sounds silly.'
For the rest of this three page story from The Telegraph..........