Au­thor Naipaul dies in Lon­don

The Times-Tribune - - LOCAL - BY SYLVIA HUI

LON­DON — V.S. Naipaul, the Trinidad-born No­bel lau­re­ate whose cel­e­brated writ­ing and brit­tle, provoca­tive per­son­al­ity drew ad­mi­ra­tion and re­vul­sion in equal mea­sures, died Satur­day at his Lon­don home, his fam­ily said. He was 85.

His wife, Nadira Naipaul, said 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.”

Naipaul was awarded the No­bel Prize for Lit­er­a­ture in 2001 “for hav­ing united per­cep­tive nar­ra­tive and in­cor­rupt­ible scru­tiny in works that com­pel us to see the pres­ence of sup­pressed his­to­ries.”

In an ex­tra­or­di­nary ca­reer span­ning half a cen­tury, the writer trav­eled as a self­de­scribed “bare­foot colo­nial” from ru­ral Trinidad to up­per class Eng­land, picked up the most cov­eted lit­er­ary awards and a knight­hood, and was hailed as one of the great­est English writ­ers of the 20th cen­tury.

Naipaul’s books ex­plored colo­nial­ism and de­col­o­niza­tion, ex­ile and the strug­gles of the every­man in the devel­op­ing world — themes that mir­ror his per­sonal back­ground and tra­jec­tory.

Al­though his writ­ing was widely praised for its com­pas­sion to­ward the des­ti­tute and the dis­placed, Naipaul him­self of­fended many with his ar­ro­gant be­hav­ior and jokes about for­mer sub­jects of the em­pire.

Among his widely quoted com­ments: He called In­dia a “slave so­ci­ety,” quipped that Africa has no fu­ture, and ex­plained that In­dian women wear a col­ored dot on their fore­heads to say “my head is empty.” He laughed off the 1989 fatwa against Sal­man Rushdie as “an ex­treme form of lit­er­ary crit­i­cism.”

The critic Terry Ea­gle­ton once said of Naipaul: “great art, dread­ful pol­i­tics.” Caribbean No­bel Lau­re­ate Derek Wal­cott com­plained that the au­thor’s prose was tainted by his “re­pul­sion to­wards Ne­groes.”

C. L. R. James, a fel­low Trinida­dian writer, put it dif­fer­ently: Naipaul’s views, he wrote, sim­ply re­flected “what the whites want to say but dare not.”

Vidi­ad­har Su­ra­jprasad Naipaul — Vidia to those who knew him — was born on Aug. 17, 1932, in Trinidad, a de­scen­dant of im­pov­er­ished In­di­ans shipped to the West Indies as bonded la­bor­ers.

His fa­ther was an as­pir­ing, self-taught nov­el­ist whose am­bi­tions were killed by lack of op­por­tu­nity; the son was de­ter­mined to leave his home­land as soon as he could. In later years, he would re­peat­edly re­ject his birth­place as lit­tle more than a plan­ta­tion.

“I was born there, yes,” he said of Trinidad to an in­ter­viewer in 1983. “I thought it was a great mis­take.”

In 1950, Naipaul was awarded one of a few avail­able gov­ern­ment schol­ar­ships to study in Eng­land, and he left his fam­ily to be­gin his stud­ies in English lit­er­a­ture at Univer­sity Col­lege, Ox­ford.


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