Cure: The Enigma of Arrival by VS Naipaul
For many, the moment of hanging up your hatchet is a terrifying one – and not just for you. How will you use your new-found freedom? Will you embrace it by embarking on a round-the-world adventure, learning ancient tongues and building a folly in your back garden? Or will you shuffle aimlessly about in your slippers getting on your family's nerves by being constantly, annoyingly... there? Retirement, if you're lucky enough to be able to do it, requires careful preparation. Do not embark on it without first reading VS Naipaul's fictionalised meditation on this stage of his own life.
The Enigma of Arrival tells the story of how the hero came to leave his native Trinidad, discover himself as a writer and eventually move to England. Like Naipaul himself, he studied English at Oxford, then spent time travelling the world – experiences which fed into his writing throughout a long and varied career. When, somewhat unexpectedly, he finds himself in the heart of Olde England in his latter years, he feels "truly an alien". Yet here, amid the fertile fields of Wiltshire, he finds a new life, "richer and fuller" than any he'd had elsewhere. For the first time, he's in tune with the landscape: rosehips and the hawthorns suit his temperament better than tropical banana palms and hibiscus. It's a surprising and inspiring discovery.
Bucolic and tranquil, The Enigma of Arrival will encourage you to take stock of where you are, literally, as well as metaphorically. Have you found the landscape with which you most resonate – and if not, where might it be? Try focusing, as Naipaul does so hypnotically, on the minutiae of things. At one point the narrator notices that the grass on the path through the orchard is mown in two directions, "one swathe up, one swathe down… the two swathes showing as two distinct colours." Now that you have freedom to mow the lawn too, use your extra time to see the world anew.Reuse content