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V. S. Naipaul

[nahy-pawl]

Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, Kt., TC (born August 17, 1932 in Chaguanas, Trinidad and Tobago), better known as V. S. Naipaul, is a Trinidadian-born British writer of Indo-Trinidadian descent, currently resident in Wiltshire.

Naipaul was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1990 and awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001.

He is the son, older brother, uncle, and cousin of published authors Seepersad Naipaul, Shiva Naipaul, Neil Bissoondath, and Vahni Capildeo, respectively. His current wife is Nadira Naipaul, a former journalist.

Assessment of his work

In 1971, Naipaul became the first person of Indian origin to win a Booker Prize for his book In a Free State. In awarding Naipaul the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001, 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." The Committee added, "Naipaul is a modern philosophe 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." The Committee also noted Naipaul's affinity with the Polish author of Heart of Darkness, 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.

His fiction and especially his travel writing have been criticised for their allegedly unsympathetic portrayal of the Third World. Edward Said, for example, has argued that he "allowed himself quite consciously to be turned into a witness for the Western prosecution", promoting "colonial mythologies about wogs and darkies". This perspective is most salient in The Middle Passage, which Naipaul composed after returning to the Caribbean after ten years of self-exile in England, and An Area of Darkness, an arguably stark condemnation on his ancestral homeland of India.

His works have become required reading in many schools within the developing World. Among English-speaking countries, Naipaul's following is notably stronger in the United Kingdom than it is in the United States.

Though a regular visitor to India since the 1960s, he has arguably "analysed" India from an arms-length distance, in some cases initially with considerable distaste (as in An Area of Darkness), and later with 'grudging affection' (as in A Million Mutinies Now), and of late perhaps even with 'ungrudging affection' (most manifestly in his view that the rise of Hindutva embodies the welcome, broader civilisational resurgence of India). He has also made attempts over the decades to identify his ancestral village in India, believed to be near Gorakhpur in Eastern Uttar Pradesh from where his grandfather had migrated to Trinidad as an indentured labourer. The mention of this is found in his work An Area of Darkness.

Writing in the style="font-style : italic;">New York Review of Books about Naipaul, Joan Didion said:

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 endeavor... 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...

In several of his books Naipaul has observed Islam, and he has been criticised for dwelling on negative aspects, e.g. nihilism among fundamentalists. Naipaul's support for Hindutva has also been controversial. He has been quoted describing the destruction of the Babri Mosque as a "creative passion", and the invasion of Babur in the 16th century as a "mortal wound." He views Vijayanagar, which fell in 1565, as the last bastion of native Hindu civilisation. He remains a somewhat reviled figure in Pakistan, which he bitingly condemned in Among the Believers.

In 1998 a controversial memoir by Naipaul's sometime protégé Paul Theroux was published. The book provides a personal, though occasionally caustic portrait of Naipaul. The memoir, entitled Sir Vidia's Shadow, was precipitated by a falling-out between the two men a few years earlier.

In early 2007, V.S Naipaul made a long-awaited return to his homeland of Trinidad. He urged citizens to shrug off the notions of "Indian" and "African" and to concentrate on being "Trinidadian". He was warmly received by students and intellectuals alike and it seems, finally, that he has come to some form of closure with Trinidad.

Personal life

Naipaul is married to Nadira Naipaul. She was born Nadira Khannum Alvi in Kenya and married in Pakistan. She worked as a journalist for the Pakistani newspaper, The Nation, for ten years before meeting Naipaul. They married in 1996, two months after the death of Naipaul's first wife, Patricia Hale. Nadira had been divorced twice before her marriage to Naipaul. She has two children from a previous marriage, Maliha and Nadir.

Bibliography

Fiction

Non-fiction

Further reading

  • Girdharry, Arnold (2004) The Wounds of Naipaul and the Women in His Indian Trilogy (Copley).
  • Barnouw, Dagmar (2003) Naipaul's Strangers (Indiana University Press).
  • Dissanayake, Wimal (1993) Self and Colonial Desire: Travel Writings of V.S. Naipaul (P. Lang).
  • French, Patrick (2008) The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V. S. Naipaul (Random House)
  • Hamner, Robert (1973). V.S. Naipaul (Twayne).
  • Hammer, Robert ed. (1979) Critical Perspectives on V.S. Naipaul (Heinemann).
  • Hayward, Helen (2002) The Enigma of V.S. Naipaul: Sources and Contexts (Macmillan).
  • Hughes, Peter (1988) V.S. Naipaul (Routledge).
  • Jarvis, Kelvin (1989) V.S. Naipaul: A Selective Bibliography with Annotations, 1957–1987 (Scarecrow).
  • Jussawalla, Feroza, ed. (1997) Conversations with V.S. Naipaul (University Press of Mississippi).
  • Kelly, Richard (1989) V.S. Naipaul (Continuum).
  • Khan, Akhtar Jamal (1998) V.S. Naipaul: A Critical Study (Creative Books)
  • King, Bruce (1993) V.S. Naipaul (Macmillan).
  • King, Bruce (2003) V.S. Naipaul, 2nd ed (Macmillan)
  • Kramer, Jane (13 April, 1980) From the Third World, an assessment of Naipaul's work in the New York Times Book Review.
  • Levy, Judith (1995) V.S. Naipaul: Displacement and Autobiography (Garland).
  • Nightingale, Peggy (1987) Journey through Darkness: The Writing of V.S. Naipaul (University of Queensland Press).
  • Said, Edward (1986) Intellectuals in the Post-Colonial World (Salmagundi).
  • Theroux, Paul (1998) Sir Vidia's Shadow: A Friendship across Five Continents (Houghton Mifflin).
  • Theroux, Paul (1972). V.S. Naipaul: An Introduction to His Work (Deutsch).
  • Weiss, Timothy F (1992) On the Margins: The Art of Exile in V.S. Naipaul (University of Massachusetts Press).

References

External links

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