Naipaul is undoubtedly one of the greatest wordsmiths of the 20th century.
His books explored colonialism and decolonization, exile and the struggles of the everyman in the developing world.
He is survived by his wife Nadira Naipaul. President Ramnath Kovind expressed his condolences over Naipaul’s death through Twitter.
Born on August 17, 1932 in Chaguanas in Trinidad, Naipaul is known for his stinging commentary on colonialism, idealism and religion and politics. Raised in relative poverty, he moved to England at the age of 18 after receiving a scholarship to University College, Oxford. He briefly worked for BBC World Service in 1957 where he discussed West Indian literature and found his footing as a writer.
In a career spanning over 50 years, Naipaul wrote over 30 books, both fiction and non-fiction and many essays. His most famous being “A Bend in the River”, “A House for Mr. Biswas”, “In a Free State” and “The Enigma of Arrival” among others. The Mystic Masseur (1957) was his first novel which won the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in 1958 and was even adapted as a film in 2001.
His early work consisted of comic commentary about the Caribbean society. However, he shifted to more serious tones later with colonialism forming the center stage of his works.
Naipaul was a controversial figure in literature, with some of his contemporaries describing him as a misanthropist and racist. Terry Eagleton once said of Naipaul: “Great art, dreadful politics.” Derek Walcott, the Caribbean Nobel Laureate, accused the author of being ‘repulsive towards Negroes’ in his works. His fellow Trinidadian writer C L R James went on to say that Naipaul says “what the whites want to say but dare not”. Naipaul was also a staunch critic of radical Islam, and many of his contemporaries criticising him for his view on Islam in his books “Among the Believers- An Islamic Journey” and “Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions among the Converted Peoples”.
Paul Theroux, Naipaul’s close friend, described him as a womaniser in his book ‘Sir Vidia’s Shadow’. The book had chapters where Naipaul was described as a great ‘prostitute man’ who mistreated women.
Naipaul’s fiction and non-fiction 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”. He also received a knighthood in 1990.