Nobel Prize Winner, author V.S. Naipaul passes away
V.S. Naipaul, the Trinidad-born Nobel laureate whose precise and lyrical writing in such novels as A Bend in the River and A House for Mr. Biswas and brittle, misanthropic personality made him one of the world’s most admired and contentious writers, died yesterday (Saturday) at his London home, his family said. He was 85.
Naipaul’s work reflected his personal journey from Trinidad to London and various stops in developing countries. He 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, Naipaul traveled as a self-described “barefoot colonial” from his rural childhood to upper class England, and was hailed as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. From A Bend in the River to The Enigma of Arrival to Finding the Centre, Naipaul’s books explored colonialism and decolonization, exile and the struggles of the every man in the developing world.
“If you come from the New World, as I in large measure do, you see all the absurd fantasies people have taken there and the troubles they have wrought as a result,” Naipaul told The Associated Press in 2000. “We were not given a proper history of the New World itself. This was not out of wickedness. It was out of ignorance, out of indifference, out of the feelings that the history of this very small island was not important. These aspects one had to learn and writing took me there. One didn’t begin with knowledge. One wrote oneself into knowledge.”
Naipaul prided himself on his candor, but he had a long history of offensive remarks. 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 by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini 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.”