Nobel prize-winning British author VS Naipaul has died at the age of 85. His wife Lady Naipaul said that he died surrounded by those he loved having lived a life which was full of wonderful creativity and endeavour. She described him as a “giant in all that he achieved”.
Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul wrote more than 30 books and won the Nobel Literature Prize in 2001. Born in Trinidad, the son of an Indian civil servant, he studied English literature at Oxford University before basing his life in England.
In an extraordinary career spanning half a century, Naipaul travelled 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. His 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.
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.”
One of his major novels was the semi-autobiographical “A House for Mr Biswas”, which looked at the almost impossible task for Indian immigrants in the Caribbean of trying to integrate into society while keeping hold of their roots. He was one of the first winners of the Booker Prize, now Britain’s leading literary award, in 1971 for “In A Free State.”
Naipaul was equally sceptical of religion and politics, of the idealism of any kind, whether revolutionary uprisings or of quests for paradise such as Sir Walter Raleigh’s search for the non-existent El Dorado. He laughed off the 1989 fatwa by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini against Salman Rushdie as “an extreme form of literary criticism.” Years before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Naipaul devoted attention to Islamic radicalism in books including “Among the Believers” and “Beyond Belief.”