V. S. Naipaul

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V.S.Naipaul's 2005 book Literary Occasions

Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, T.C. (born August 17, 1932, in Chaguanas, Trinidad and Tobago), better known as V. S. Naipaul, is a Trinidadian-born British novelist of Indian heritage from Gorakhpur in Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Indo-Trinidadian ethnicity. Naipaul lives in Wiltshire, England. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001 and knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1990. His current wife is Nadira Naipaul, a former journalist. A scion of the politically powerful Capildeo family of Trinidad, Sir Vidia is the son, older brother, uncle, and cousin of published authors Seepersad Naipaul, Shiva Naipaul, Neil Bissoondath, and Vahni Capildeo, respectively. His life and work were written about in 2002 by his long-time editor Diana Athill.

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[edit] Life and work

In awarding Naipaul the Nobel Prize for Literature, 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 philosopher, 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-born British author of Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad: "Naipaul is Conrad's heir as the annalist of the destinies of empires in the moral sense: what they do to human beings. His authority as a narrator is grounded in the memory of what others have forgotten, the history of the vanquished."

His fiction and especially his travel writing have been criticised for their allegedly unsympathetic portrayal of the Third World. Edward Said, for example, has argued that he "allowed himself quite consciously to be turned into a witness for the Western prosecution", promoting "colonial mythologies about wogs and darkies" (53). This perspective is most salient in The Middle Passage, which Naipaul composed after returning to the Caribbean after ten years of self-exile in England, and An Area of Darkness, a stark condemnation on his ancestral homeland of India. His supporters argue that he is actually an advocate for a more realistic development of the Third World, that he is motivated by a passionate desire for the improvement of the countries which he writes about, and that the assumptions of the likes of Said actually hold these emerging nations back. That said, Naipaul's contempt for many aspects of liberal orthodoxy is uncompromising, yet he has exhibited an open-mindedness toward some Third World leaders and cultures that isn't found in western writers. His works have become required reading in many schools within the Third World.

Though a regular visitor to India since the 1960s, he has always "analyzed" India from an arms-length distance, initially with considerable distaste (as in An Area of Darkness), later with 'grudging affection' (as in A Million Mutinies Now), and of late perhaps even with 'ungrudging affection' (most manifestly in his view that the rise of Hindutva embodies the welcome, broader civilizational resurgence of India). He has also made attempts over the decades to identify his ancestral village in India, or at least to locate the general area where his ancestors may have travelled. The greater frequency of his visits to India in recent years may, according to Naipaul-watchers, also signifies, at least in part, a yearning for 'identity'.

Writing in the New York Review of Books about Naipaul, Joan Didion said:

The actual world has for Naipaul a radiance that diminishes all ideas of it. The pink haze of the bauxite dust on the first page of Guerrillas tells us what we need to know about the history and social organization of the unnamed island on which the action takes place, tells us in one image who runs the island and for whose profit the island is run and at what cost to the life of the island this profit has historically been obtained, but all of this implicit information pales in the presence of the physical fact, the dust itself... The world Naipaul sees is of course no void at all: it is a world dense with physical and social phenomena, brutally alive with the complications and contradictions of actual human endeavor... This world of Naipaul's is in fact charged with what can only be described as a romantic view of reality, an almost unbearable tension between the idea and the physical fact...

In several of his books Naipaul has discussed Islam, and he has been criticised for dwelling on negative aspects, e.g. nihilism among fundamentalists. Naipaul's support for Hindutva has also been controversial. He has been quoted describing the destruction of the Babri Mosque 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 Pakistan, which he bitingly condemned in Among the Believers.

In 1998 a controversial memoir by Naipaul's sometime protegé Paul Theroux was published. The book provides a personal, though occasionally caustic portrait of the Nobel Laureate. The memoir, entitled Sir Vidia's Shadow, was precipitated by a falling-out between the two men a few years earlier.

In 1971, he became the first Person of Indian origin to win a Booker Prize for his book In a Free State.

[edit] Awards

1977 Declined to be Commander of the order of the British Empire (CBE)

[edit] Bibliography

Fiction

Non-fiction

[edit] 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).
  • 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).

[edit] External links

bn:ভি. এস. নাইপল

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V. S. Naipaul

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