Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad "Vidia" Naipaul or VS Naipaul, the Trinidad-born Nobel Laureate, an anti-social yet fragile personality, the writer of majestic novels such as ‘A House for Mr. Biswas and ‘A Bend in the River’ that made him a renowned and one of the most controversial writers, died on Saturday at his London bungalow at the age of 85.
VS Naipaul’s writing was all about his journey from Trinidad to London and his pits and stops in the developing countries as his books unearthed the controversial topic of colonialism and decolonization banishment and the struggle of a common man in the ever evolving world.
The legendary writer was awarded the Nobel award for Literature in 2001 “for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories.”
His controversial and offensive remarks often made headlines! Once he called India a ‘slave society’, said Africa has no future, and even said that Indian women wear ‘Bindi’ to say ‘my head is empty’.
However, a fellow Trinidadian writer, CLR James once wrote that Naipaul says ‘what white people want to say but dare not.’
Naipaul’s father was a self-taught novelist whose dreams were crushed by lack of opportunities. But, Naipaul left his homeland as soon as he could to complete his dreams as he moved to England after being awarded a rare scholarship to begin his English literature at University College, Oxford.
“I was born there, yes,” he said of Trinidad to an interviewer in 1983. “I thought it was a great mistake.”
In England, Naipaul met his first wife and married her without informing anyone.
On completion of his graduation, he was completely dependent on his wife as he suffered poverty and unemployment for a short period.
Naipaul’s major breakthrough was in 1957 after his first published novel ‘The Mystic Masseur’ – based on the lives of poverty-stricken people in a Trinidad slum.
Naipaul’s work triggered the anger of Indians and Muslims, for example, Salman Rushdie, who thought he was promoting Hindu nationalism.
He received the much-coveted knighthood in 1990 and was honoured with the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001.
His one-time old friend and American writer, Paul Theroux once described him as a racist, sexist miser who beat up women and throw tantrums.
Naipaul’s later books lost the ‘Midas Touch’ as he spent his later life living quietly in an isolated area in Wiltshire, England.