No­bel-win­ning writer Naipaul dies

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - Nation & World -

V.S. Naipaul, a No­bel lau­re­ate who doc­u­mented the mi­gra­tions of peo­ples, the un­rav­el­ing of the British Em­pire, the ironies of ex­ile and the clash be­tween be­lief and un­be­lief in 14 of­ten un­spar­ing nov­els and as many works of non­fic­tion, died Satur­day in Lon­don. He was

85.

The As­so­ci­ated Press, cit­ing a state­ment from his fam­ily, said Naipaul died at his home.

His wife, Nadira Naipaul, told the AP that he was “a gi­ant in all that he achieved, and he died sur­rounded by those he loved, hav­ing lived a life which was full of won­der­ful cre­ativ­ity and en­deavor.”

In many ways em­body­ing the con­tra­dic­tions of the post­colo­nial world, Naipaul was born of In­dian an­ces­try in Trinidad, went to Ox­ford Univer­sity on a schol­ar­ship and lived the rest of his life in Eng­land, where he forged one of the most il­lus­tri­ous lit­er­ary ca­reers of the past half cen­tury. He was knighted in 1990.

Com­pared in his life­time to Con­rad, Dick­ens and Tol­stoy, he was also a light­ning rod for crit­i­cism, par­tic­u­larly by those who read his por­tray­als of Third World dis­ar­ray as apolo­gies for colo­nial­ism.

Yet Naipaul ex­empted nei­ther col­o­nizer nor col­o­nized from his scru­tiny. He wrote of the ar­ro­gance and self-ag­gran­dize­ment of the col­o­niz­ers, yet ex­posed the self-de­cep­tion and eth­i­cal am­bi­gu­i­ties of the lib­er­a­tion move­ments that swept across Africa and the Caribbean in their wake. He brought to his work mo­ral ur­gency and a nov­el­ist’s at­ten­tive­ness to in­di­vid­ual lives and tri­umphs.

Naipaul per­son­i­fied a sense of dis­place­ment. Hav­ing left be­hind the cir­cum­scribed world of Trinidad, he was never en­tirely rooted in Eng­land. In award­ing him the No­bel Prize in lit­er­a­ture in 2001, the Swedish Acad­emy de­scribed him as “a lit­er­ary cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tor, only ever re­ally at home in him­self, in his inim­itable voice.”

Yet his ex­is­ten­tial home­less­ness was as much willed as fated. Al­though he spent his lit­er­ary ca­reer min­ing his ori­gins, Naipaul re­sisted the idea of be­ing tethered to a hy­phen or a par­tic­u­lar eth­nic or re­li­gious iden­tity. He once left a pub­lisher when he saw him­self listed in the cat­a­log as a “West In­dian nov­el­ist.”

Au­thor V.S. Naipaul, who lived in Eng­land, was a staunch de­fender of Western civ­i­liza­tion.

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