Nobel-winning writer Naipaul dies
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
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.