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Authors: V.S. Naipaul

Among the Believers

BOOK: Among the Believers

V. S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad in 1932. He went to England on a scholarship in 1950. After four years at Oxford he began to write, and since then he has followed no other profession. He is the author of more than twenty-five books of fiction and nonfiction and the recipient of numerous honors, including the Nobel Prize in 2001, the Booker Prize in 1971, and a knighthood for services to literature in 1990. He lives in Wiltshire, England.



Literary Occasions
The Writer and the World
Between Father and Son: Family Letters
Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples
India: A Million Mutinies Now
A Turn in the South
Finding the Center
The Return of Eva Perón
The Killings in Trinidad)
India: A Wounded Civilization
The Overcrowded Barracoon
The Loss of El Dorado
An Area of Darkness
The Middle Passage


Half A Life
A Way in the World
The Enigma of Arrival
A Bend in the River
In a Free State
A Flag on the Island
The Mimic Men
Mr. Stone and the Knights Companion*
A House for Mr. Biswas
The Suffrage of Elvira*
Miguel Street
The Mystic Masseur

*Published in an omnibus edition entitled
The Nightwatchman’s Occurrence Book

First Vintage Books Edition, September 1982
Copyright © 1981 by V. S. Naipaul
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American
Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Originally published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. in 1981.

Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following for permission to reprint from previously published material:
Ashraf Press: Excerpt from
The Maxims of Ali
, translated by J. Chapman. Reprinted courtesy of Sheikh Muhammad Ashraf, Ashraf Press.
Penguin Books, Ltd.: Excerpt from
The Rise of the Roman Empire
by Polybius; translated by Ian Scott-Kilvert (Penguin Classics, 1979). Copyright © 1979 by Ian Scott-Kilvert. Reprinted by permission of Penguin Books, Ltd.
Simon & Schuster and George Allen & Unwin (Publishers), Ltd.:
Excerpt from
Portrait from Memory
by Bertrand Russell.
Copyright 1951, 1952, 1953, © 1956 by Bertrand Russell.
Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, a Division of Gulf & Western Corporation, and George Allen & Unwin (Publishers), Ltd.

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Naipaul, V. S. (Vidiadhar Surajprasad), 1932-
Among the believers.
Reprint. Originally published: New York: Knopf, 1981.
1. Islam—Asia.
2. Islamic countries—Description and travel.
3. Naipaul, V. S. (Vidiadhar Surajprasad), 1932-
I. Title.

35   1982]   297′.095   82-40048
eISBN: 978-0-307-78930-3


Now in earlier times the world’s history had consisted, so to speak, of a series of unrelated episodes, the origins and results of each being as widely separated as their localities, but from this point onwards history becomes an organic whole: the affairs of Italy and Africa are connected with those of Asia and of Greece, and all events bear a relationship and contribute to a single end

(died 118
), on the rise of Rome (translated by Ian Scott-Kilvert)

But it was not alone in poetry that I excelled. I had a great turn for mechanics, and several of my inventions were much admired at court. I contrived a wheel for perpetual motion, which only wants one little addition to make it go round for ever. I made different sorts of coloured paper; I invented a new sort of ink-stand; and was on the high road to making cloth, when I was stopped by his majesty, who said to me, “Asker, stick to your poetry: whenever I want cloth, my merchants bring it from Europe.”

: The Adventures of Hajji Baba
of Ispahan


“This Kom is a place that, excepting on the subject of religion, and settling who are worthy of salvation and who to be damned, no one opens his lips. Every man you meet is either a descendant of the Prophet or a man of the law.… Perhaps, friend Hajji, you do not know that this is the residence of the celebrated Mirza Abdul Cossim, the first
[divine] of Persia; a man who, if he were to give himself sufficient stir, would make the people believe any doctrine that be might choose to promulgate. Such is his influence, that many believe he could even subvert the authority of the Shah himself and make his subjects look upon his firmans as worthless, as so much waste paper.”

The Adventures of Hajji Baba
of Ispahan

Death Pact

adeq was to go with me from Tehran to the holy city of Qom, a hundred miles to the south. I hadn’t met Sadeq; everything had been arranged on the telephone. I needed an Iranian interpreter, and Sadeq’s name had been given me by someone from an embassy.

Sadeq was free because, like many Iranians since the revolution, he had found himself out of a job. He had a car. When we spoke on the telephone he said it would be better for us to drive to Qom in his car; Iranian buses were dreadful and could be driven at frightening speeds by people who didn’t really care.

We fixed a price for his car, his driving, his interpreting; and what he asked for was reasonable. He said we should start as soon as possible the next morning, to avoid the heat of the August day. He would take his wife to her office—she still had a job—and come straight on to the hotel. I should be ready at 7:30.

He came some minutes before eight. He was in his late twenties, small and carefully dressed, handsome, with a well-barbered head of hair. I didn’t like him. I saw him as a man of simple origins, simply educated, but with a great sneering pride, deferential but resentful, not liking himself for what he was doing. He was the kind of man who, without political doctrine, only with resentments, had made the Iranian revolution. It would have been interesting to talk to him for an hour or two; it was going to be hard to be with him for some days, as I had now engaged myself to be.

He was smiling, but he had bad news for me. He didn’t think his car could make it to Qom.

I didn’t believe him. I thought he had simply changed his mind.

I said, “The car was your idea. I wanted to go by the bus. What happened between last night and now?”

“The car broke down.”

“Why didn’t you telephone me before you left home? If you had telephoned, we could have caught the eight o’clock bus. Now we’ve missed that.”

“The car broke down after I took my wife to work. Do you really want to go to Qom today?”

“What’s wrong with the car?”

“If you really want to go to Qom we can take a chance with it. Once it starts it’s all right. The trouble is to get it started.”

We went to look at the car. It was suspiciously well parked at the side of the road, not far from the hotel gate. Sadeq sat in the driver’s seat. He called out to a passing man, one of the many idle workmen of Tehran, and the man and I began to push. A young man with a briefcase, possibly an office worker on his way to work, came and helped without being asked. The road was dug up and dusty; the car was very dusty. It was hot; the exhausts of passing cars and trucks made it hotter. We pushed now with the flow of the traffic, now against it; and all the time Sadeq sat serenely at the steering wheel.

People from the pavement came and helped for a little, then went about their business. It occurred to me that I should also be going about mine. This—pushing Sadeq’s car back and forth—wasn’t the way to get to Qom; what had begun so unpromisingly wasn’t going to end well. So, without telling anybody anything then or afterwards, I left Sadeq and his car and his volunteer pushers and walked back to the hotel.

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