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Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul Kt. TC (born August 17, 1932, in Chaguanasmarker, Trinidad and Tobagomarker), commonly known as V. S. Naipaul, is a Britishmarker novelist and essayist of Indo-Trinidadian descent. He is widely considered to be one of the masters of modern English prose. He has been awarded numerous literary prizes including the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize (1958), the Somerset Maugham Award (1960), the Hawthornden Prize (1964), the W. H. Smith Literary Award (1968), the Booker Prize (1971), and the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime's achievement in British Literature (1993). V. S. Naipaul was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001, the centenary year of the award.

Assessment of his work

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:

His fiction and especially his travel writing have been criticised for their allegedly unsympathetic portrayal of the Third World. Ideologue Edward Said, for example, argues that Naipaul "allowed himself quite consciously to be turned into a witness for the Western prosecution", promoting what Said classifies as "colonial mythologies about wogs and darkies". Said believes that Naipaul's worldview may be most salient in the author's book-length essay The Middle Passage, which Naipaul composed after returning to the Caribbean after ten years of exile in England, and the misunderstood, underrepresented work An Area of Darkness.

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

Writing in the New York Review of Books about Naipaul, Joan Didion offers the following portrayal of the writer:

Naipaul has been criticised for dwelling on some negative aspects of Islam in his works, such as nihilism among fundamentalists. Naipaul's support for Hindutva has also been controversial. He has been quoted describing the destruction of the Babri Mosquemarker 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 Pakistanmarker, which he bitingly condemned in Among the Believers.

In 1993 Naipaul was awarded the British David Cohen Prize for Literature.

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.

In 2008, writer Patrick French released the first authorized biography of Naipaul, which portrayed a tormented, and tormenting, personal life.

Personal life

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 Pakistani journalist.

Naipaul was married to Englishwoman Patricia Hale for 41 years, until her death due to cancer in 1996. The two shared a close relationship when it came to Naipaul's work—Pat was a sort of unofficial editor for Naipaul—according to the new, authorized biography by Patrick French (although Naipaul is cited with admitting his fear that his devotion to his writing and infidelities may have accelerated Pat's death). As well as regularly visiting prostitutes in London, while she was at work as a school teacher, Naipaul often abandoned his wife to travel with Margaret Gooding, a married Anglo-Argentinian woman who he had met in 1972.

Two months after Hale's death, Naipaul abruptly ended his affair with Margaret Gooding to marry Nadira Naipaul, a divorced Pakistani journalist, born Nadira Khannum Alvi. She worked as a journalist for the Pakistani newspaper, The Nation, for ten years before meeting Naipaul. Nadira was divorced twice before her marriage to Naipaul and has two children from a previous marriage, Maliha Naipaul and Nadir.

She is the sister of Maj Gen (Retd) Amir Faisal Alvi, a former chief of the Special Service Group - Pakistan Army, who was later assasinated during the War in North-West Pakistan.




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).


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