Trinidadian novelist may have been the most formidable writer of the English language
For many, Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul was the greatest writer of the English language.
For evidence, check the 30 books that he has written, most of which are described as masterpieces, and see the repertoire of prestigious awards that adorned his achievements, including the Nobel Prize for Literature handed to him in 2001, and his Knighthood with Trinidad and Tobago’s Trinity Cross in 1990, and the Booker Prize in 1971.
The man that the world knows as VS Naipaul, celebrated son of Trinidad and Tobago, died on Saturday, August 11 at his home in Britain. He was 85-years-old and just six days shy of his 86th birthday.
Born at a time when his homeland was still a colony of Britain, Naipaul showed early signs of being a restless colonial. He was also a brilliant student, who attended Queen’s Royal College and became an island scholar that took him to Oxford University in 1950.
In 1955 he wrote Mystic Masseur, his first novel, which earned him the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize and launched his spectacular career. That was followed by The Suffrage of Elvira (1958), which received the Somerset Maugham Award, A House of Mr. Biswas in 1961. In 1971 Naipaul published In a Free State, which earned him the Booker Prize.
In the 1970s he published, Guerrillas and A Bend in the River.
Then in 1987 his The Enigma of Arrival was cited as the basis for his Nobel Prize.
Another of his masterpieces, The Middle Passage, was published in 1962, documenting a year-long trip through Trinidad, British Guiana, Suriname, Martinique, and Jamaica, and covering issues such as the legacy of slavery and colonialism, race relations, culture and economics.
Other noteworthy Naipaul novels include An Area of Darkness (1964), India: A Wounded Civilization (1977), and India: A Million Mutinies Now (1990). The Return of Eva Peron and The Killings in Trinidad, Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey and Beyond Belief.
In the midst of all his accomplishments, Naipaul remains an enigma to many who are drawn to his extraordinary abilities but troubled by what was his lifelong inclination to trivialize the potential of postcolonial societies, especially the land of his birth, Trinidad and Tobago.
His younger brother, Shiva Naipaul, was also a celebrated writer who attended QRC and Oxford University. He died in 1985 at the age of 40.
VS Naipaul is survived by his second wife, Nadira Alvi, a former Pakistani journalist.