V. S. Naipaul

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V. S. Naipaul

VS Naipaul 2016 Dhaka.jpg
VS Naipaul in Dhaka in 2016
BornVidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul [nb 1]
(1932-08-17)17 August 1932
Chaguanas, British Trinidad and Tobago
Died11 August 2018(2018-08-11) (aged 85)
London, England
OccupationNovelist, travel writer, essayist
CitizenshipBritish [1]
Alma mater University College, Oxford
GenreNovel, essay
Notable works
Notable awards Booker Prize
Nobel Prize in Literature

Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul TC ( /ˈvɪdjɑːdərˌsrəprəˈsɑːdˈnpɔːl, nˈpɔːl/ ; 17 August 1932 – 11 August 2018), most commonly known as V. S. Naipaul, and informally, Vidia Naipaul, was a Trinidadian-British writer of works of fiction and nonfiction in English. He is known for his comic early novels set in Trinidad, his bleaker later novels of the wider world, and his vigilant chronicles of life and travels. He wrote in prose that was widely admired, but his views sometimes aroused controversy. He published more than thirty books over fifty years.

Trinity Cross order

The Trinity Cross was the highest of the National Awards of Trinidad and Tobago, between the years 1969– 2008. It was awarded for: "distinguished and outstanding service to Trinidad and Tobago. It was awarded for gallantry in the face of the enemy, or for gallant conduct." Either nationals or non-nationals can be awarded the honour, but no more than five may be awarded in any year. The President was awarded the Trinity Cross in an ex officio capacity. The award was first presented in 1969 and was subsequently replaced by The Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in the year 2008.

Trinidad The larger of the two major islands which make up the nation of Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad is the larger and more populous of the two major islands of Trinidad and Tobago. The island lies 11 km (6.8 mi) off the northeastern coast of Venezuela and sits on the continental shelf of South America. Though geographically part of the South American continent, from a socio-economic standpoint it is often referred to as the southernmost island in the Caribbean. With an area of 4,768 km2 (1,841 sq mi), it is also the fifth largest in the West Indies.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom (UK), officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and often referred to as Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.


Naipaul won the Booker Prize in 1971 for his novel In a Free State . In 1989, he was awarded the Trinity Cross, Trinidad and Tobago's highest national honour. He received a knighthood in Britain in 1990, and in 2001, the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Booker Prize prize awarded each year for the best original English novel

The Booker Prize for Fiction is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original novel written in the English language and published in the United Kingdom. The winner of the Man Booker Prize is generally assured international renown and success; therefore, the prize is of great significance for the book trade. From its inception, only novels written by Commonwealth, Irish, and South African citizens were eligible to receive the prize; in 2014 it was widened to any English-language novel—a change which proved controversial.

<i>In a Free State</i> book by V.S. Naipaul

In a Free State is a novel by V.S. Naipaul published in 1971. It won that year's Booker Prize. The plot consists of a framing narrative and three short stories - “One out of Many,” “Tell Me Who to Kill,” and the title story, “In a Free State.” The work is symphonic, with different movements converging towards a common theme; although the theme is not spelled out, it evidently concerns the price of freedom, with analogies implicitly drawn between the three scenarios.

Trinidad and Tobago Island country in the Caribbean Sea

Trinidad and Tobago, officially the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, is a twin island country that is the southernmost nation of the West Indies in the Caribbean. It is situated 130 kilometres south of Grenada off the northern edge of the South American mainland, 11 kilometres off the coast of northeastern Venezuela. It shares maritime boundaries with Barbados to the northeast, Grenada to the northwest, Guyana to the southeast, and Venezuela to the south and west.

In the late 19th century, Naipaul's grandparents had emigrated from India to work in Trinidad's cocoa plantations as indentured servants. His breakthrough novel A House for Mr Biswas was published in 1961. On the fiftieth anniversary of its publication, he dedicated it to Patricia Anne Hale, to whom he was married from 1955 until her death in 1996, and who had served as first reader, editor, and critic of his writings.

India Country in South Asia

India, also known as the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh largest country by area and with more than 1.3 billion people, it is the second most populous country as well as the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the northeast; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives, while its Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.

Indentured servitude unfree labor system

An indentured servant or indentured laborer is an employee (indenturee) within a system of unfree labor who is bound by a signed or forced contract (indenture) to work for a particular employer for a fixed time. The contract often lets the employer sell the labor of an indenturee to a third party. Indenturees usually enter into an indenture for a specific payment or other benefit, or to meet a legal obligation, such as debt bondage. On completion of the contract, indentured servants were given their freedom, and occasionally plots of land. In many countries, systems of indentured labor have now been outlawed, and are banned by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a form of slavery.

<i>A House for Mr Biswas</i> book by V.S. Naipaul

A House for Mr Biswas is a 1961 novel by V. S. Naipaul, significant as Naipaul's first work to achieve acclaim worldwide. It is the story of Mohun Biswas, an Indo-Trinidadian who continually strives for success and mostly fails, who marries into the Tulsi family only to find himself dominated by it, and who finally sets the goal of owning his own house. Drawing some elements from the life of Naipaul's father, the work is a sharply drawn look at life that uses postcolonial perspectives to view a vanished colonial world.

Early life

Where there had been swamp at the foot of the Northern Range, with mud huts with earthen walls that showed the damp halfway up ... there was now the landscape of Holland. ... Sugarcane as a crop had ceased to be important. None of the Indian villages were like villages I had known. No narrow roads; no dark, overhanging trees; no huts; no earth yards with hibiscus hedges; no ceremonial lighting of lamps, no play of shadows on the wall; no cooking of food in half-walled verandas, no leaping firelight; no flowers along gutters or ditches where frogs croaked the night away. [2]

 — From Enigma of Arrival (1987)

Naipaul was born on 17 August 1932 in Chaguanas, Trinidad and Tobago. [3] He was the second child of Droapatie Capildeo and Seepersad Naipaul and had a Hindu upbringing. [3] [4] His younger brother was the writer Shiva Naipaul. [5] In the 1880s, his grandparents had migrated from India to work as indentured labourers on the sugar plantations. [6] [7] In the Indian immigrant community in Trinidad, Naipaul's father became an English-language journalist, and in 1929 began contributing articles to the Trinidad Guardian . [8] In 1932, the year Naipaul was born, his father joined the staff as the Chaguanas correspondent. [9] In "A prologue to an autobiography" (1983), Naipaul describes how his father's reverence for writers and for the writing life spawned his own dreams and aspirations to become a writer. [10] Naipaul in his 2001 Nobel Prize lecture Two worlds, speculated that he may be paternally linked to Nepal:

Chaguanas Borough

The Borough of Chaguanas is the largest borough and fastest-growing town in Trinidad and Tobago. Located in west-central Trinidad, south of Port of Spain, north of Couva and San Fernando, named after the indigenous tribe who originally settled there, it grew in size due to its proximity to the Woodford Lodge sugar refinery. It remained a minor town until the 1980s when it began to grow rapidly as it drew people for its bargain shopping and moderately-priced housing. However, its rapid growth has seen property values increase dramatically.

Capildeo family

The Capildeo family is an Indo-Trinidadian family of politicians and writers. The most notable members are 2001 Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul and mathematician and politician Rudranath Capildeo. The ancestral home of the Capildeo family is known as Anand Bhavan and is in Chaguanas, Caroni County, Trinidad and Tobago. No one today knows how the name Kapil transformed into Capildeo. It is possible that Kapil added dev, meaning God, from his village's name of Mahadeva Dubey to his name. Transliteration from Hindi to English was not well developed in the 19th century and words were spelt differently then from the way they are now. Thus, Kapil was changed to Capil and dev to deo, giving Kapil's descendants the surname of Capildeo.

Seepersad Naipaul Trinidad and Tobago journalist

Seepersad Naipaul was an Indo-Trinidadian writer. He was the father of V. S. Naipaul, Shiva Naipaul, Kamla Tewari, and Sati Bissoondath, and married into the influential Hindu Indo-Trinidadian Capildeo family.

I know nothing of the people on my father's side; I know only that some of them came from Nepal. Two years ago a kind Nepalese who liked my name sent me a copy of some pages from an 1872 gazetteer-like British work about India, Hindu Castes and Tribes as Represented in Benares; the pages listed—among a multitude of names—those groups of Nepalese in the holy city of Banaras who carried the name Naipal. That is all that I have.

Nepal country in South Asia

Nepal, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked country in South Asia. It is located mainly in the Himalayas but also includes parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. With an estimated population of 26.4 million, it is 48th largest country by population and 93rd largest country by area. It borders China in the north and India in the south, east, and west while Bangladesh is located within only 27 km (17 mi) of its southeastern tip and Bhutan is separated from it by the Indian state of Sikkim. Nepal has a diverse geography, including fertile plains, subalpine forested hills, and eight of the world's ten tallest mountains, including Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. Kathmandu is the nation's capital and largest city. Nepal is a multiethnic nation with Nepali as the official language.

Nepal is a surname used by Khas Brahmin people of Nepal. The origin of people with surname Nepal is Nepa village of Dullu.

Two Worlds by V.S. Naipaul [11]

Naipaul's mother came from a prosperous family. In 1939, when he was six years old, [6] Naipaul's family moved in with them in a big house in Trinidad's capital, Port of Spain. [12] [13] There, Naipaul enrolled in the government-run Queen's Royal College, a well-regarded school that was modelled after a British public school. [14] Upon graduation, Naipaul won a Trinidad Government scholarship that allowed him to study at any institution of higher learning in the British Commonwealth; he chose Oxford.

Port of Spain Capital City in City of Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

Port of Spain, officially the City of Port of Spain, is the capital city of Trinidad and Tobago and the country's second-largest city after San Fernando and the third largest municipality after Chaguanas and San Fernando. The city has a municipal population of 37,074, an urban population of 81,142 and a transient daily population of 250,000. It is located on the Gulf of Paria, on the northwest coast of the island of Trinidad and is part of a larger conurbation stretching from Chaguaramas in the west to Arima in the east with an estimated population of 600,000.

Queens Royal College secondary school in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

Queen's Royal College, referred to for short as QRC, or "The College" by alumni, is the second oldest secondary school in Trinidad and Tobago and is still regarded as the country's bastion of secondary-school education. The college is noted for its famous German Renaissance architecture and tradition of multi-faceted education, which continues to produce some of Trinidad and Tobago's leading thinkers, athletes, artists and politicians.

Public school (United Kingdom) Type of independent school in England and Wales

A public school in England and Wales is a long-established, student-selective, fee-charging independent secondary school that caters primarily for children aged between 11 or 13 and 18, and whose head teacher is a member of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC). Public refers to their origins as schools open to any public citizen who could afford to pay the fees; they are not funded from public taxes. Traditionally, English public schools were all-male boarding schools, but the term now also includes co-educational and girls' schools, while many accept day pupils as well as boarders.

Education in England

At University College, Oxford, Naipaul's early attempts at writing, he felt, were contrived. Lonely and unsure of his ability and calling, he became depressed. [15] In April 1952, he took an impulsive trip to Spain, where he quickly spent all he had saved. [16] He called his impulsive trip "a nervous breakdown". [17] Thirty years later, he called it "something like a mental illness". [18]

In 1952, before visiting Spain, Naipaul met Patricia Ann Hale, his future wife, at a college play. With Hale's support, he began to recover and gradually to write. She became a partner in planning his career. Her family was hostile to the relationship; his was unenthusiastic. In June 1953, Naipaul and Hale graduated from Oxford. Naipaul graduated with a second-class degree. Peter Bayley, his Oxford tutor, would later comment that Naipaul "had not quite forgiven us for giving him a second-class degree".

In 1953, Naipaul's father died. [19] He worked at odd jobs and borrowed money from Hale and his family in Trinidad.

Life in London

The freelancers' room was like a club: chat, movement, the separate anxieties of young or youngish men below the passing fellowship of the room. That was the atmosphere I was writing in. That was the atmosphere I gave to Bogart's Port of Spain street. Partly for the sake of speed, and partly because my memory or imagination couldn't rise to it, I had given his servant room hardly any furniture: the Langham room itself was barely furnished. And I benefited from the fellowship of the room that afternoon. Without that fellowship, without the response of the three men who read the story, I might not have wanted to go on with what I had begun.

 — From, "A Prologue to an Autobiography" (1983). [20]

Naipaul moved to London in 1954. In January 1955, he and Pat were married. In December 1954, he began appearing on the BBC radio programme Caribbean Voices once a week. Sitting in the BBC freelancers' room in the old Langham Hotel, he wrote "Bogart", the first story of Miguel Street , which was inspired by a neighbour he knew as a child in Port of Spain. Naipaul wrote Miguel Street in five weeks. The New York Times said about the book: "The sketches are written lightly, so that tragedy is understated and comedy is overstated, yet the ring of truth always prevails." [21]

Early Trinidad novels

Diana Athill, an editor at the publishing company André Deutsch, read Miguel Street and liked it, but publisher André Deutsch thought a book of short stories by an unknown Caribbean writer unlikely to sell profitably in Britain. [22] He encouraged Naipaul to write a novel. [22] Naipaul quickly wrote The Mystic Masseur [22] and it was published in 1955.

In 1956, Naipaul returned to Trinidad for a two-month stay with his family. Travelling by ship there, he sent humorous sketches of the ship's West Indian passengers to Pat. [23] These sketches became the inspiration for The Suffrage of Elvira , a comic novella about a rural election in Trinidad. [24] In 1957, Naipaul became an editorial assistant at the Cement and Concrete Association (C&CA), his only full-time job. [25] The C&CA was to be the setting for Naipaul's later novel, Mr Stone and the Knights Companion (1963). [25] At this time the New Statesman's Kingsley Martin gave Naipaul a part-time job reviewing books, a job he did from 1957 to 1961. [26]

The Mystic Masseur was awarded the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in 1958, and Miguel Street the Somerset Maugham Award in 1961 with W. Somerset Maugham himself approving the first-ever selection of a non-European for the prize. [27]

Seepersad Naipaul, father of V. S. Naipaul, and the inspiration for the protagonist of the novel, Mr Biswas, with his Ford Prefect. Seepersad Naipaul with Ford Prefect.jpg
Seepersad Naipaul, father of V. S. Naipaul, and the inspiration for the protagonist of the novel, Mr Biswas, with his Ford Prefect.

For his next novel, A House for Mr Biswas (1961), Naipaul took for inspiration childhood memories of his father (later he wrote that the novel "destroyed memory" in some respects). [28] In the novel the title character Mohun Biswas takes a succession of vocations (apprentice to a Hindu priest, signboard painter, grocery store proprietor, and reporter for The Trinidad Sentinel). [29] What ambition and resourcefulness Mr Biswas has are inevitably undermined by his dependence on his powerful in-laws and the vagaries of the colonial society in which he lives. [29]

The book consumed Naipaul. In 1983, he wrote:

The book took three years to write. It felt like a career; and there was a short period, towards the end of the writing, when I do believe I knew all or much of the book by heart. The labour ended; the book began to recede. And I found that I was unwilling to re-enter the world I had created, unwilling to expose myself again to the emotions that lay below the comedy. I became nervous of the book. I haven't read it since I passed the proofs in May 1961.

From the Foreword to A House for Mr. Biswas [30]

Novels and travel writing

The emergency was over. And so was my year. The short winter was fading fast; it was no longer pleasant to sit out in the sun; the dust would not now be laid until the monsoon. ... India had not worked its magic on me. It remained the land of my childhood, an area of darkness; like the Himalayan passes, it was closing up again, as fast as I withdrew from it, into a land of myth; it seemed to exist in just the timelessness which I had imagined as a child, into which, for all that I walked on Indian earth, I knew I could not penetrate. In a year I had not learned acceptance. I had learned my separateness from India, and was content to be a colonial, without a past, without ancestors.

 — From An Area of Darkness (1964). [31]

After completing A House for Mr Biswas, Naipaul and Pat spent the next five months in British Guiana, Suriname, Martinique and Jamaica, [32] [33] where Naipaul took notes for The Middle Passage: Impressions of Five Societies – British, French and Dutch in the West Indies and South America , his first travel book. [32] [34] He wrote, "The history of the islands can never be told satisfactorily. Brutality is not the only difficulty. History is built around achievement and creation; and nothing was created in the West Indies." [35]

In 1962, Naipaul and Pat went to India, the land of Naipaul's ancestors, where Naipaul wrote An Area of Darkness . [36] [37] For the first time in his life, he felt anonymous, even faceless. He was no longer identified, he felt, with a special ethnic group as he had been in Trinidad and England; it made him anxious. [38] [39] He was upset by what he saw as the resigned or evasive Indian reaction to poverty and suffering. [40] [41]

While in India, Naipaul wrote Mr Stone and the Knights Companion. He accepted an invitation to write a monthly "Letter from London" for The Illustrated Weekly of India . [42]

Coconut trees and beach and the white of breakers seemed to meet at a point in the distance. It was not possible to see where coconut turned to mangrove and swampland. Here and there, interrupting the straight line of the beach, were the trunks of trees washed up by the sea. I set myself to walk to one tree, then to the other. I was soon far away from the village and from people, and was alone on the beach, smooth and shining silver in the dying light. No coconut now, but mangrove, tall on the black cages of their roots. From the mangrove swamps channels ran to the ocean between sand banks that were daily made and broken off, as neatly as if cut by machines, shallow channels of clear water touched with the amber of dead leaves, cool to the feet, different from the warm sea.

 — From The Mimic Men (1967). [43]

Naipaul had spent an overwrought year in India. [44] Back in London, after An Area of Darkness was completed, he felt creatively drained. [44] He felt he had used up his Trinidad material. [45] Neither India nor the writing of Mr Stone and the Knights Companion, his only attempt at a novel set in Britain with white British characters, had spurred new ideas for imaginative writing. [45] His finances too were low, and Pat went back to teaching to supplement them. [44] Naipaul's books had received much critical acclaim, but they were not yet money makers. [44] Socially, he was now breaking away from the Caribbean Voices circle, but no doors had opened to mainstream British society. [46]

That changed when Naipaul was introduced to Antonia Fraser, at the time the wife of conservative politician Hugh Fraser. [47] Fraser introduced Naipaul to her social circle of upper-class British politicians, writers, and performing artists. [47] In this circle was the wealthy second Baron Glenconner, father of novelist Emma Tennant and owner of estates in Trinidad, who arranged for an unsecured loan of £7,200 for Naipaul. [48] Naipaul and Pat bought a three-floor house on Stockwell Park Crescent. [49]

In late 1964, Naipaul was asked to write an original script for an American movie. [50] He spent the next few months in Trinidad writing the story, a novella named "A Flag on the Island", later published in the collection A Flag on the Island . The finished version was not to the director's liking and the movie was never made. [50] The story is set in 1964, in a Caribbean island that is not named. [51] The main character is an American named Frankie who affects the mannerisms of Frank Sinatra. [50] Frankie has links to the island from having served there during World War II. [52] He revisits reluctantly when his ship anchors during a hurricane. [52] Naipaul wilfully makes the pace of the book feverish, the narrative haphazard, the characters loud, the protagonist fickle or deceptive, and the dialogue confusing. [52] [50] Balancing the present time is Frankie's less disordered, though comfortless, memory of 20 years before. [53] Then he had become a part of a community on the island. [53] He had tried to help his poor friends by giving away the ample U.S. Army supplies he had. [53] Not everyone was happy about receiving help and not everyone benefited. [53] Frankie was left chastened about finding tidy solutions to the island's social problems. [53] This theme, indirectly developed in the story, is one to which Naipaul would return.

Not long after finishing A Flag on the Island , Naipaul began work on the novel The Mimic Men, though for almost a year he did not make significant progress. [54] At the end of this period, he was offered a Writer-in-Residence fellowship at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. [55] There, in early 1966, he began to rewrite his material, and went on to complete the novel quickly. [56] The finished novel broke new ground for him. [56] Unlike his Caribbean work, it was not comic. [57] It did not unfold chronologically. [58] Its language was allusive and ironic, its overall structure whimsical. [59] It had strands of both fiction and non-fiction, a precursor of other Naipaul novels. [60] It was intermittently dense, even obscure, [58] but it also had beautiful passages, especially descriptive ones of the fictional tropical island of Isabella. The subject of sex appeared explicitly for the first time in Naipaul's work. [61] The plot, to the extent there is one, centres on a protagonist, Ralph Singh, an East Indian-West Indian politician from Isabella. [59] Singh is in exile in London and attempting to write his political memoirs. [59] Earlier, in the immediate aftermath of decolonization in a number of British colonies in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Singh had shared political power with a more powerful African-Caribbean politician. Soon, the memoirs take on a more personal aspect. There are flashbacks to the formative and defining periods of Singh's life. In many of these, during crucial moments, whether during his childhood, married life, or political career, he appears to abandon engagement and enterprise. [59] These, he rationalizes later, belong only to fully made European societies. When The Mimic Men was published, it received generally positive critical notice. In particular, Caribbean politicians, such as Michael Manley and Eric Williams weighed in, the latter writing: "V. S. Naipaul's description of West Indians as 'mimic men' is harsh but true ..." [62]

Back in London in October 1966, Naipaul received an invitation from the American publisher Little, Brown and Company to write a book on Port-of-Spain. [63] The book took two years to write, its scope widening with time. The Loss of El Dorado (1969) eventually became a narrative history of Trinidad based on primary sources. Pat spent many months in the archives of the British Library reading those sources. [63] In the end, the finished product was not to the liking of Little, Brown, who were expecting a guidebook. [63] Alfred A. Knopf agreed to publish it instead in the United States, as did André Deutsch later in Britain. [63]

The Loss of El Dorado is an attempt to ferret out an older, deeper history of Trinidad, one preceding its commonly taught history as a British-run plantation economy of slaves and indentured workers. [64] Central to Naipaul's history are two stories: the search for El Dorado, a Spanish obsession, in turn pursued by the British, and the British attempt to spark from their new colony of Trinidad, even as it was itself becoming mired in slavery, a revolution of lofty ideals in South America. [64] Sir Walter Raleigh and Francisco Miranda would become the human faces of these stories. [64] Although slavery is eventually abolished, the sought for social order slips away in the face of uncertainties created by changeable populations, languages, and governments and by the cruelties inflicted by the island's inhabitants on each other. [64]

Before Naipaul began writing The Loss of El Dorado, he had been unhappy with the political climate in Britain. [65] He had been especially unhappy with the increasing public animosity, in the mid-1960s, towards Asian immigrants from Britain's ex-colonies. [65] During the writing of the book, he and Pat sold their house in London, and led a transient life, living in the homes of friends, sometimes for rent, sometimes not. After the book was completed, they travelled to Trinidad and Canada with a view to finding a location in which to settle. [66] Naipaul had hoped to write a blockbuster, one relieving him of future money anxieties. As it turned out, The Loss of El Dorado sold only 3,000 copies in the US, where major sales were expected; Naipaul also missed England more than he had calculated. It was thus in a depleted state, both financial and emotional, that he returned to Britain. [66]

Earlier, during their time in Africa, Naipaul and Pat had travelled to Kenya, staying a month in Mombasa on the Indian Ocean coast. [67] They had travelled in rural Uganda to the Kisoro District on the south-western border with Rwanda and the Congo. [67] Naipaul showed interest in the great culture, history and traditions of the Baganda people. [67] When Uganda's prime minister Milton Obote deposed, militarily, the President of Uganda, who was also the Kabaka of Buganda, Naipaul was critical of the British press for not condemning the action enough. [68] Naipaul also travelled to Tanzania with a young American he had met in Kampala, Paul Theroux. [68] It was upon this African experience that Naipaul would draw during the writing of his next book, In a Free State , published in 1971. [69]

In the title novella, "In a Free State", two young expatriate Europeans drive across an African country, which remains nameless but which offers clues of Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda. [70] The novella speaks to many themes. The colonial era ends and Africans govern themselves. [70] Political chaos, frequently violent, takes hold in newly decolonized countries. [70] Young, idealistic, expatriate whites are attracted to these countries, seeking expanded moral and sexual freedoms. They are rootless, their bonds with the land tenuous; at the slightest danger they leave. [71] The older, conservative, white settlers, by contrast, are committed to staying, even in the face of danger. [71] The young expatriates, though liberal, can be racially prejudiced. [71] The old settlers, unsentimental, sometimes brutal, can show compassion. [72] The young, engrossed in narrow preoccupations, are uncomprehending of the dangers that surround them. [71] The old are knowledgeable, armed, and ready to defend themselves. [72] The events unfolding along the car trip and the conversation during it become the means of exploring these themes. [71]

Later works

In 1974, Naipaul wrote the novel Guerrillas , following a creative slump that lasted several years. [73] A Bend in the River , published in 1979, marks the beginning of his exploration of native historical traditions, deviating from his usual "New World" examinations. [74] Naipaul also covered the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas, at the behest of Robert B. Silvers, editor of The New York Review of Books , after which Naipaul wrote "Among the Republicans", [75] an anthropological study of a "white tribe in the United States". [76]

In 1987, The Enigma of Arrival , a novel in five sections, was published.

Naipaul continued to write non-fiction works, his last being The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief (2010), written following the author's trips to Africa in 2008–09. The book explores indigenous religious beliefs and rituals, where Naipaul portrays the countries he visited in real life as bleak, and the people primitive. [77]

Critical responses

In awarding Naipaul the 2001 Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy praised his work "for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories." [76] The Committee added: "Naipaul is a modern philosopher carrying on the tradition that started originally with Lettres persanes and Candide . In a vigilant style, which has been deservedly admired, he transforms rage into precision and allows events to speak with their own inherent irony." [76] The Committee also noted Naipaul's affinity with the novelist Joseph Conrad:

Naipaul is Conrad's heir as the annalist of the destinies of empires in the moral sense: what they do to human beings. His authority as a narrator is grounded in the memory of what others have forgotten, the history of the vanquished. [76]

Naipaul's fiction and especially his travel writing have been criticised for their allegedly unsympathetic portrayal of the Third World. The novelist Robert Harris has called Naipaul's portrayal of Africa racist and "repulsive," reminiscent of Oswald Mosley's fascism. [78] Edward Said argued that Naipaul "allowed himself quite consciously to be turned into a witness for the Western prosecution", promoting what Said classified as "colonial mythologies about wogs and darkies". [79] Said believed that Naipaul's worldview may be most salient in his book-length essay The Middle Passage (1962), composed following Naipaul's return to the Caribbean after 10 years of exile in England, and the work An Area of Darkness (1964).

Naipaul was accused of misogyny, and of having committed acts of "chronic physical abuse" against his mistress of 25 years, Margaret Murray, who wrote in a letter to The New York Review of Books: "Vidia says I didn't mind the abuse. I certainly did mind." [80]

Writing in The New York Review of Books about Naipaul in 1980, Joan Didion offered the following portrayal of the writer: [81]

The actual world has for Naipaul a radiance that diminishes all ideas of it. The pink haze of the bauxite dust on the first page of Guerrillas tells us what we need to know about the history and social organization of the unnamed island on which the action takes place, tells us in one image who runs the island and for whose profit the island is run and at what cost to the life of the island this profit has historically been obtained, but all of this implicit information pales in the presence of the physical fact, the dust itself. ... The world Naipaul sees is of course no void at all: it is a world dense with physical and social phenomena, brutally alive with the complications and contradictions of actual human endeavour. ... This world of Naipaul's is in fact charged with what can only be described as a romantic view of reality, an almost unbearable tension between the idea and the physical fact ...

Nissim Ezekiel wrote the 1984 essay "Naipaul's India and Mine" as a reply to Naipaul's An Area of Darkness. [82]

Personal life

During his first trip to Argentina, in 1972, Naipaul met and entered into an affair with Margaret Murray Gooding, a married Anglo-Argentine mother of three. He revealed his affair to his wife one year after it began, telling her that he had never been sexually satisfied in their relationship. He moved between both women for the next 24 years. [83]

In 1995, as he was traveling through Indonesia with Gooding, his wife Patricia was hospitalized with cancer. She died the following year. Within two months of her death, Naipaul ended his affair with Gooding and married Nadira Alvi, a divorced Pakistani journalist more than 20 years his junior. [83] He had met her at the home of the American consul-general in Lahore. [84] In 2003, he adopted Nadira's daughter, Maleeha, who was then 25. [85]

Awards and recognition

Naipaul was awarded the Trinity Cross in 1990. [86] He was also made a knight bachelor at the 1990 New Year Honours. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001. [87]


Naipaul died at his home in London at the age of 85 on 11 August 2018, less than a week short of his 86th birthday. [85] His widow, Lady Nadira Naipaul, confirmed her husband's death, saying "[H]e died surrounded by those he loved". [88] The Mail on Sunday editor and friend Geordie Greig informed BBC Radio 4 he was one of those at Naipaul's bedside upon his death, saying: "Nadira talked about a poem by Lord Tennyson, 'Crossing the Bar', which had great resonance and meaning to him and I just turned on my phone and found it and we read it." [88] Sir Salman Rushdie paid the following tribute: "We disagreed all our lives, about politics, about literature, and I feel as sad as if I just lost a beloved older brother. RIP Vidia." [88]

Naipauls's funeral took place at Kensal Green Cemetery.



See also

Notes and references

  1. Meaning: vidiādhar (Hindi "possessed of learning," (p. 921) from vidyā (Sanskrit "knowledge, learning," p. 921) + dhar (Sanskrit "holding, supporting," p. 524)); sūrajprasād (from sūraj (Hindi "sun," p. 1036) + prasād (Sanskrit "gift, boon, blessing," p. 666)) from McGregor, R. S. (1993). The Oxford Hindi-English Dictionary. Oxford University Press.
  1. "The Nobel Prize in Literature 2001 – V. S. Naipaul". NobelPrize.org. Archived from the original on 4 May 2017. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  2. Naipaul 1987, p. 352.
  3. 1 2 Hayward 2002, p. 5.
  4. https://scholarlyrepository.miami.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi%3Farticle%3D1141%26context%3Danthurium&ved=2ahUKEwiIo6yN8PbeAhWSz4UKHRpTDagQFjARegQIBBAB&usg=AOvVaw35jo2ahWDwObF7nZvos1uB
  5. https://literature.britishcouncil.org/writer/shiva-naipaul
  6. 1 2 "V.S. Naipaul, Who Explored Colonialism Through Unsparing Books, Dies at 85" . Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  7. French 2008, p. 12.
  8. French 2008, p. 19: "In 1929, the year of his marriage, Seepersad began work as a freelance reporter on the Trinidad Guardian, ..."
  9. Hayward 2002, p. 7.
  10. French 2008, pp. 36–37: "Vido spent much of his time at Petit Valley with Pa, who would read to him and sometimes to other children: extracts from Julius Caesar, Nicholas Nickleby, Three Men in a Boat, ... Pa and Vido positioned themselves in an ordered fantasy world derived from European literature. ... Aspiration and ambition became the alternative to daily life ..."
  11. "V.S. Naipaul - Nobel Lecture: Two Worlds". www.nobelprize.org. Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  12. French 2008, p. 30: "Nanie had bought a house, 17 Luis Street, in the Port of Spain suburb of Woodbrook. ... This coincided with Seepersad's recovery from his nervous breakdown, and his success in 1938 in regaining his job as a Guardian journalist. It was decided that the Naipaul family ... would move to Luis Street."
  13. French 2008, pp. 32–33: "The idyll could not last. In 1940, Seepersad and Droapatie were told by Nanie that they would be moving to a new family commune at a place called Petit Valley. ... In 1943, Seepersad could stand it no longer at Petit Valley and the Naipaul family moved in desperation to 17 Luis Street.
  14. French 2008, pp. 40–41: "QRC was modelled on an English boys' public school, and offered a high standard of education. ... He enjoyed his classes in Latin, French, Spanish and Science. It was a highly competitive school, with metropolitan values. Caribbean dialect was ironed out in favour of standard English, although the students remained bilingual. ... "
  15. French 2008, p. 90.
  16. French 2008, pp. 92–93.
  17. French 2008, p. 93: "When Vidia got back to England, he was in a bad state. Trinidad was off. 'The fact is,' he admitted, 'I spent too much money in Spain. And, during the nervous breakdown (yes, it was that) I had, I grew rash and reckless ... My only opportunity of recuperating from my present chaos is to remain in England this summer and live very cheaply.'"
  18. Jussawalla 1997, p. 126: "At Oxford he continued to suffer. 'I drifted into something like a mental illness,' he would write."
  19. French 2008, p. 123.
  20. Naipaul 1983c.
  21. Poore, Charles (5 May 1960), "Miguel Street" Archived 26 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine The New York Times. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  22. 1 2 3 French 2008, pp. 155–156.
  23. French 2008, p. 161.
  24. French 2008, pp. 171–172.
  25. 1 2 French 2008, pp. 180–181.
  26. French 2008, pp. 186–187.
  27. French 2008, p. 185.
  28. French 2008, p. 192.
  29. 1 2 French 2008, p. 193.
  30. Naipaul 1983a, p. 128.
  31. Naipaul 1964, p. 252.
  32. 1 2 French 2008, p. 201.
  33. French 2008, pp. 201–202.
  34. Dooley 2006, p. 37.
  35. French 2008, p. 203.
  36. French 2008, p. 230.
  37. Dooley 2006, p. 44.
  38. French 2008, p. 215.
  39. Dooley 2006, pp. 41–42.
  40. French 2008, p. 217.
  41. Dooley 2006, pp. 42–43.
  42. French 2008, pp. 232–233.
  43. Naipaul 1967, p. 133.
  44. 1 2 3 4 French 2008, p. 239.
  45. 1 2 French 2008, pp. 219–220.
  46. French 2008, p. 240.
  47. 1 2 French 2008, pp. 241–242.
  48. French 2008, pp. 243–244.
  49. French 2008, p. 244.
  50. 1 2 3 4 French 2008, p. 247.
  51. King 2003, p. 69.
  52. 1 2 3 Dooley 2006, p. 57.
  53. 1 2 3 4 5 Dooley 2006, p. 58.
  54. French 2008, p. 248.
  55. French 2008, p. 249.
  56. 1 2 French 2008, p. 250.
  57. Dooley 2006, p. 55.
  58. 1 2 King 2003, pp. 77–78.
  59. 1 2 3 4 King 2003, p. 71.
  60. Dooley 2006, p. 54.
  61. Dooley 2006, p. 53.
  62. French 2008, p. 257.
  63. 1 2 3 4 French 2008, p. 258.
  64. 1 2 3 4 King 2003, pp. 83–84.
  65. 1 2 French 2008, p. 270.
  66. 1 2 King 2003, pp. 84–85.
  67. 1 2 3 French 2008, p. 253.
  68. 1 2 French 2008, p. 254.
  69. French 2008, p. 255.
  70. 1 2 3 King 2003, pp. 91–92.
  71. 1 2 3 4 5 King 2003, pp. 87–88.
  72. 1 2 King 2003, p. 88.
  73. Smyer, Richard (Autumn 1992), "Review: A New Look at V. S. Naipaul", Contemporary Literature , Vol. 33, No. 3, pp. 573–581.
  74. Cooke, John (December 1979), "'A Vision of the Land': V,S, Naipaul's Later Novels", Caribbean Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 4, Caribbean Writing: Critical Perspectives, pp. 31–47.
  75. Naipaul, V. S. (25 October 1984), ""Among the Republicans", The New York Review of Books.
  76. 1 2 3 4 "The Nobel Prize in Literature 2001: V. S. Naipaul (Press Release)". Svenska Akademien. 11 October 2001. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012.
  77. Meyers, Jeffrey (Spring 2011), "Review: Beyond Belief", The Antioch Review , Vol. 69, No. 2, pp. 386–389.
  78. Greig, Geordie. "VS Naipaul: You might not like it, but this is Africa – exactly as I saw it". The London Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 27 August 2014. Retrieved 14 June 2014.
  79. Said, Edward W (1 March 2002). "Edward Said on Naipaul". Archived from the original on 10 October 2007. Retrieved 10 October 2008.
  80. Murray, Margaret; Buruma, Ian; Theroux, Paul (8 May 2018). "On V.S. Naipaul: An Exchange". Archived from the original on 27 October 2016. Retrieved 8 May 2018 via www.nybooks.com.
  81. Didion, Joan (12 June 1980). "Without Regret or Hope". The New York Review of Books. Archived from the original on 8 September 2005.
  82. Tripathi, Salil (9 February 2004). "Commentary - Remembering the Indian poet Nissim Ezekial". New Statesman.
  83. 1 2 Smith, Harrison (11 August 2018). "V.S. Naipaul, Nobel winner who offered 'a topography of the void,' dies at 85". The Washington Post. Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  84. French, Patrick (31 March 2008). "Naipaul And His Three Women". Outlook India. Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  85. 1 2 Donadio, Rachel (11 August 2018). "V.S. Naipaul, Delver of Colonialism Through Unsparing Books, Dies at 85". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 12 August 2018. Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  86. https://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/18/books/review/Shaftel-t.html
  87. "Nobel Prize-winning British author VS Naipaul dies aged 85". The Independent. Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  88. 1 2 3 Lea, Richard (11 August 2018). "VS Naipaul, Nobel prize-winning British author, dies aged 85". The Guardian . Retrieved 11 August 2018.
  89. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 "V.S. Naipaul - Bibliography". Nobelprize.org. Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  90. "A Country Still in the MNaking". New York Times. Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  91. 1 2 3 4 "V.S. Naipaul". Pan McMillan. Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  92. "You can't read this book". The Hindu . Retrieved 5 July 2015.
  93. "From the Third World". New York Times. Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  94. "The Enchantment of Vidia Naipaul". LRB.co.uk. Retrieved 12 August 2018.

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