The British writer,
born in Trinidad, V(idiadhar) S(urajprasad) Naipaul was born in 1932 in
Chaguanas, close to the Port of Spain on Trinidad, in a family descended
from immigrants from the north of India. His grandfather worked in a sugar
cane plantation and his father was a journalist and writer. At the age
of 18 Naipaul travelled to England where, after studying at University
College at Oxford, he was awarded the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1953.
From then on he continued to live in England (since the 70s in Wiltshire,
close to Stonehenge) but he has also spent a great deal of time travelling
in Asia, Africa and America. Apart from a few years in the middle of the
1950s, when he was employed by the BBC as a free-lance journalist, he
has devoted himself entirely to his writing.
Naipaul's works consist mainly of novels and short stories, but also include
some that are documentary. He is to a very high degree a cosmopolitan
writer, a fact that he himself considers to stem from his lack of roots:
he is unhappy about the cultural and spiritual poverty of Trinidad, he
feels alienated from India, and in England he is incapable of relating
to and identifying with the traditional values of what was once a colonial
The events in his earliest books take place in the West Indies. A few
years after the publication of his first work, The Mystic Masseur
(1957), came what is considered by many to be one of his most outstanding
novels, A House for Mr. Biswas (1961), in which the protagonist
is modelled on the author's father.
After the enormous success of A House for Mr. Biswas, Naipaul extended
the geographical and social perspective of his writing to describe with
increasing pessimism the deleterious impact of colonialism and emerging
nationalism on the third world, in for instance Guerrillas (1975)
and A Bend in the River (1979), the latter a portrayal of Africa
that has been compared to Conrad's Heart of Darkness.
In his travel books and his documentary works he presents his impressions
of the country of his ancestors, India, as in India : A Million Mutinies
Now (1990), and also critical assessments of Muslim fundamentalism
in non-Arab countries such as Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia and Pakistan in
Among the Believers (1981) and Beyond Belief (1998).
The novels The Enigma of Arrival (1987) and A Way in the World
(1994) are to a great extent autobiographical. In The Enigma of Arrival
he describes how a landed estate in southern England and its proprietor,
with a colonial background and afflicted by a degenerative disease, gradually
decline before finally perishing. A Way in the World, which is
a cross between fiction, memoirs and history, consists of nine independent
but thematically linked narratives in which Caribbean and Indian traditions
are blended with the culture encountered by the author when he moved to
England at the age of 18.
V.S. Naipaul has been awarded a number of literary prizes, among them
the Booker Prize in 1971 and the T.S. Eliot Award for Creative Writing
in 1986. He is an honorary doctor of St. Andrew's College and Columbia
University and of the Universities of Cambridge, London and Oxford. In
1990 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
A selection of
works by V.S. Naipaul
The Mystic Masseur. London: Deutsch, 1957.
Miguel Street. London: Deutsch, 1959.
A House for Mr. Biswas. London: Deutsch, 1961.
The Middle Passage : Impressions of Five Societies – British, French
and Dutch in the West Indies and South America. London: Deutsch, 1962.
Mr. Stone and the Knights Companion. London: Deutsch, 1963.
A Flag on the Island. London: Deutsch, 1967.
The Loss of El Dorado : A History. London: Deutsch, 1969.
In a Free State. London: Deutsch, 1971.
The Overcrowded Barracoon and Other Articles. London: Deutsch,
Guerrillas. London: Deutsch, 1975.
India : A Wounded Civilization. London: Deutsch, 1977.
A Bend in the River. London: Deutsch, 1979.
A Congo Diary. Los Angeles, CA: Sylvester & Orphanos, 1980.
Among the Believers : An Islamic Journey. London: Deutsch, 1981.
The Enigma of Arrival. London: Viking, 1987.
India : A Million Mutinies Now. London: Heinemann, 1990.
A Way in the World. London: Heinemann, 1994.
Beyond Belief : Islamic Excursions among the Converted Peoples.
London: Little, Brown, 1998.
Reading and Writing : A Personal Account. New York: New York Review
of Books, 2000.
Half a life. London: Picador, 2001.
Theroux, Paul, V.S.
Naipaul : an introduction to his work. London: Deutsch, 1972.
Hamner, Robert, V.S.
Naipaul. New York: Twayne, 1973.
on V.S. Naipaul. Ed. Robert D. Hamner. London: Heinemann, 1979.
Journey through darkness : the writing of V.S. Naipaul. St. Lucia:
Univ. of Queensland Press, 1987.
Hughes, Peter, V.S.
Naipaul. London: Routledge, 1988.
Jarvis, Kelvin, V.S.
Naipaul : a selective bibliography with annotations, 1957–1987. Metuchen,
N. J.: Scarecrow, 1989.
Kelly, Richard, V.S.
Naipaul. New York: Continuum, 1989.
Weiss, Timothy F.,
On the margins : the art of exile in V.S. Naipaul. Amherst: Univ.
of Massachusetts Press, 1992.
Self and colonial desire : travel writings of V.S. Naipaul. New
York: P. Lang, 1993.
King, Bruce, V.S.
Naipaul. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1993.
Levy, Judith, V.S.
Naipaul : displacement and autobiography. New York: Garland, 1995.
V.S. Naipaul. Ed. Feroza Jussawalla. Jackson: Univ. Press of Mississippi,
Khan, Akhtar Jamal,
V.S. Naipaul : a critical study. New Delhi: Creative Books, 1998.
Theroux, Paul, Sir
Vidia's shadow : a friendship across five continents. Boston: Houghton
The Swedish Academy