V. S. Naipaul
Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad "V. S." Naipaul, TC
Trinity Cross
The Trinity Cross was the highest of the National Awards of Trinidad and Tobago, between the years 1969– 2008. It was awarded for: distinguished and outstanding service to Trinidad and Tobago...

 (born 17 August 1932) is a Nobel prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

-winning Indo-Trinidadian
Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonian are nationals of Trinidad and Tobago of Indian or other South Asian ancestry.Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonians has now become interchangeable with Indians or East Indians. These were people who were taken from India by the British either as workers or educated...

-British writer who is known for his novels focusing on the legacy of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

's colonialism
Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...

. He has also written works of non-fiction, such as travel writing and essays.

Naipaul has been called "a master of modern English prose" in The New York Review of Books
The New York Review of Books
The New York Review of Books is a fortnightly magazine with articles on literature, culture and current affairs. Published in New York City, it takes as its point of departure that the discussion of important books is itself an indispensable literary activity...

and has been awarded numerous literary prizes including the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize
John Llewellyn Rhys Prize
The John Llewellyn Rhys Prize is a literary prize awarded annually for the best work of literature by an author from the Commonwealth aged 35 or under, written in English and published in the United Kingdom...

 (1958), the Somerset Maugham Award
Somerset Maugham Award
The Somerset Maugham Award is a British literary prize given each May by the Society of Authors. It is awarded to whom they judge to be the best writer or writers under the age of thirty-five of a book published in the past year. The prize was instituted in 1947 by William Somerset Maugham and thus...

 (1960), the Hawthornden Prize
Hawthornden Prize
The Hawthornden Prize is a British literary award that was established in 1919 by Alice Warrender. Authors are awarded on the quality of their "imaginative literature" which can be written in either poetry or prose...

 (1964), the W. H. Smith Literary Award (1968), the Booker Prize
Man Booker Prize
The Man Booker Prize for Fiction is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original full-length novel, written in the English language, by a citizen of the Commonwealth of Nations, Ireland, or Zimbabwe. The winner of the Man Booker Prize is generally assured of international renown and...

 (1971), the Jerusalem Prize
Jerusalem Prize
The Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society is a biennial literary award given to writers whose works have dealt with themes of human freedom in society. It is awarded at the Jerusalem International Book Fair, and the recipient usually delivers an address when accepting the award...

 (1983) and the David Cohen Prize
David Cohen Prize
The David Cohen Prize for Literature is a biennial British literary award given to a writer, novelist, short-story writer, poet, essayist or dramatist in recognition of an entire body of work, written in the English language. The prize is funded by the John S. Cohen Foundation and administered by...

 for a lifetime's achievement in British Literature
British literature
British Literature refers to literature associated with the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Channel Islands. By far the largest part of British literature is written in the English language, but there are bodies of written works in Latin, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Scots, Cornish, Manx, Jèrriais,...


In 2001, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. In 2008, The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

ranked Naipaul seventh on their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".

Personal life

Naipaul was born in Chaguanas
The Borough of Chaguanas is the largest municipality 2000 census) and fastest-growing town in Trinidad and Tobago. Located in Central Trinidad about south of Port of Spain. It grew in size due to its proximity to the Woodford Lodge sugar refinery. It remained a minor town until the 1980s when it...

, Trinidad and Tobago, to parents of Indian descent. He is the son, older brother, uncle, and cousin of published authors Seepersad Naipaul
Seepersad Naipaul
Seepersad Naipaul was a writer of Indo-Trinidadian heritage. He was the father of V.S. Naipaul and married into the influential Capildeo family....

, Shiva Naipaul
Shiva Naipaul
Shiva Naipaul , born Shivadhar Srivinasa Naipaul in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, was a Trinidadian and British novelist and journalist.Shiva Naipaul was the younger brother of novelist V. S. Naipaul...

, Neil Bissoondath
Neil Bissoondath
Neil Devindra Bissoondath is a Canadian author who lives in Ste-Foy, Quebec. He is a noted writer of fiction, and also an outspoken critic of Canada's system of multiculturalism. He is the nephew of authors V.S. Naipaul and Shiva Naipaul.-Biography:Bissoondath attended St. Mary's College in...

, and Vahni Capildeo
Vahni Capildeo
Surya Vahni Priya Capildeo is a Trinidadian writer, and a member of the extended Capildeo family which has produced notable Trinidadian politicians and writers ....

, respectively. His current wife is Nadira Naipaul
Nadira Naipaul
Nadira, Lady Naipaul is a Pakistani journalist and the wife of novelist Sir Vidiadhar Naipaul. She was born Nadira Khannum Alvi in Pakistan and was raised in Kenya. She worked as a journalist for Pakistani newspaper, The Nation for ten years before meeting Naipaul...

, a former Pakistani journalist.

Naipaul was married to Englishwoman Patricia Hale for 41 years, until her death due to cancer in 1996. According to an authorised biography by Patrick French
Patrick French
Patrick French is a British writer and historian, based in London. He was educated at the University of Edinburgh where he studied English and American literature....

, the two shared a close relationship when it came to Naipaul's work—Pat was a sort of unofficial editor for Naipaul—but the marriage was not a happy one in other respects. Naipaul regularly visited prostitutes in London, and later had a long-term abusive affair with another married woman, Margaret Gooding, which his wife was aware of.

Prior to Hale's death, Naipaul proposed to Nadira Naipaul, a divorced Pakistani journalist, born Nadira Khannum Alvi. They were married two months after Hale's death, at which point Naipaul also abruptly ended his affair with Gooding. Nadira Naipaul had worked as a journalist for the Pakistani newspaper, The Nation, for ten years before meeting Naipaul. She was divorced twice before her marriage to Naipaul and has two children from a previous marriage, Maliha Naipaul and Nadir.

She is the sister of Maj Gen (Retd) Amir Faisal Alvi, a former chief of the Special Service Group – Pakistan Army, who was later assassinated during the War in North-West Pakistan
War in North-West Pakistan
The War in North-West Pakistan is an armed conflict between the Pakistan Armed Forces and armed religious groups such as the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan , Lashkar-e-Islam, TSNM, Arab and Central Asian militants including Al-Qaeda, regional armed movements and elements of organized crime.The armed...



Naipaul insists that his writing transcends any particular ideological outlook, remarking that "to have a political view is to be prejudiced. I don't have a political view." His supporters often perceive him as offering a mordant critique of many left-liberal pieties while his detractors, such as critic Edward Said
Edward Said
Edward Wadie Saïd was a Palestinian-American literary theorist and advocate for Palestinian rights. He was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and a founding figure in postcolonialism...

 and poet Derek Walcott
Derek Walcott
Derek Alton Walcott, OBE OCC is a Saint Lucian poet, playwright, writer and visual artist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992 and the T. S. Eliot Prize in 2011 for White Egrets. His works include the Homeric epic Omeros...

 accuse him of being a neo-colonial apologist. He has also excoriated Tony Blair
Tony Blair
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is a former British Labour Party politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007...

 as a "pirate" at the head of "a socialist revolution", a man who was "destroying the idea of civilisation in this country" and had created "a plebeian culture".

In his book dealing with the influence of Islam on non-Arab Muslims, Beyond Belief: Islamic excursions among the converted peoples, Naipaul states the following about Islam:

Female writers

Naipaul attracted media controversy with statements about women he made in a May 2011 interview at the Royal Geographic Society, expressing his view that women's writing was inferior to men's, and that there was no female writer whom he would consider his equal. Naipaul stated that women's writing was "quite different", reflecting women's "sentimentality, the narrow view of the world". He had previously criticised leading female Indian authors writing about the legacy of colonialism for the "banality" of their work.


In awarding Naipaul the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001, 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 philosophe
The philosophes were the intellectuals of the 18th century Enlightenment. Few were primarily philosophers; rather they were public intellectuals who applied reason to the study of many areas of learning, including philosophy, history, science, politics, economics and social issues...

carrying on the tradition that started originally with Lettres persanes and Candide
Candide, ou l'Optimisme is a French satire first published in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. The novella has been widely translated, with English versions titled Candide: or, All for the Best ; Candide: or, The Optimist ; and Candide: or, Optimism...

. 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 novelist Joseph Conrad
Joseph Conrad
Joseph Conrad was a Polish-born English novelist.Conrad is regarded as one of the great novelists in English, although he did not speak the language fluently until he was in his twenties...

His fiction and especially his travel writing have been criticised for their allegedly unsympathetic portrayal of the Third World. Literary critic Edward Said
Edward Said
Edward Wadie Saïd was a Palestinian-American literary theorist and advocate for Palestinian rights. He was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and a founding figure in postcolonialism...

, for example, argues that Naipaul "allowed himself quite consciously to be turned into a witness for the Western prosecution", promoting what Said classifies as "colonial mythologies about wog
Wog or Pog is a slang word with a number of meanings, generally considered derogatory and, in some instances, extremely offensive when used in relation to ethnicity...

s and darkies". Said believes that Naipaul's worldview may be most salient in the author's book-length essay The Middle Passage
The Middle Passage (book)
The Middle Passage: Impressions of Five Societies - British, French and Dutch in the West Indies and South America is a 1962 book-length essay / travelogue by V.S. Naipaul. It is his first book-length work of non-fiction...

, which Naipaul composed after returning to the Caribbean after ten years of exile in England, and the work An Area of Darkness
An Area of Darkness
An Area of Darkness is a book authored by V.S. Naipaul in 1964. It is a travelogue detailing Naipaul's trip through India in the early sixties. It was the first of Naipaul's acclaimed Indian trilogy which includes India: A Wounded Civilization and India: A Million Mutinies Now...


Writing in the New York Review of Books about Naipaul, Joan Didion
Joan Didion
Joan Didion is an American author best known for her novels and her literary journalism. Her novels and essays explore the disintegration of American morals and cultural chaos, where the overriding theme is individual and social fragmentation...

 offers the following portrayal of the writer:
Naipaul has mentioned some negative aspects of Islam in his works, such as nihilism among fundamentalists. He has been quoted describing the bringing down of the Babri Mosque
Babri Mosque
The Babri Mosque , was a mosque in Ayodhya, a city in the Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh, on Ramkot Hill . It was destroyed in 1992 when a political rally developed into a riot involving 150,000 people, despite a commitment to the Indian Supreme Court by the rally organisers that the mosque...

 as a "creative passion," and the invasion of Babur
Babur was a Muslim conqueror from Central Asia who, following a series of setbacks, finally succeeded in laying the basis for the Mughal dynasty of South Asia. He was a direct descendant of Timur through his father, and a descendant also of Genghis Khan through his mother...

 in the 16th century as a "mortal wound." He views Vijayanagar
Vijayanagara Empire
The Vijayanagara Empire , referred as the Kingdom of Bisnaga by the Portuguese, was an empire based in South Indian in the Deccan Plateau region. It was established in 1336 by Harihara I and his brother Bukka Raya I of the Yadava lineage. The empire rose to prominence as a culmination of attempts...

, which fell in 1565, as the 'last bastion of native Hindu civilisation'. He bitingly condemned Pakistan in Among the Believers.

He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs.James Bowdoin, John Adams, and...

 in 1990. In 1993 Naipaul was awarded the British David Cohen Prize
David Cohen Prize
The David Cohen Prize for Literature is a biennial British literary award given to a writer, novelist, short-story writer, poet, essayist or dramatist in recognition of an entire body of work, written in the English language. The prize is funded by the John S. Cohen Foundation and administered by...

 for Literature.

In 1998 a controversial memoir by Naipaul's sometime protégé Paul Theroux
Paul Theroux
Paul Edward Theroux is an American travel writer and novelist, whose best known work of travel writing is perhaps The Great Railway Bazaar . He has also published numerous works of fiction, some of which were made into feature films. He was awarded the 1981 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his...

 was published. The book provides a personal, though occasionally caustic portrait of Naipaul. The memoir, entitled Sir Vidia's Shadow, was precipitated by a falling-out between the two men a few years earlier. Theroux supposedly blamed Naipaul's second wife, Nadira Naipaul, for driving the two apart.

In early 2007, V. S. Naipaul made a long-awaited return to his homeland of Trinidad. He urged citizens to shrug off the notions of "Indian" and "African" and to concentrate on being "Trinidadian". In 2008, writer Patrick French released the first authorised biography of Naipaul, which was serialised in The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph is a daily morning broadsheet newspaper distributed throughout the United Kingdom and internationally. The newspaper was founded by Arthur B...


Further reading

  • Athill, Diana (2000) Stet. An Editor's Life (Grove Press)
  • Schutte, Gillian (2010) Behind Sir Vidia’s Masque: The Night the Naipauls Came to Supper (Book Southern Africa).
  • 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).
  • French, Patrick
    Patrick French
    Patrick French is a British writer and historian, based in London. He was educated at the University of Edinburgh where he studied English and American literature....

     (2008) The World Is What It Is
    The World Is What It Is
    The World Is What It Is: The Authorized Biography of V. S. Naipaul is a biography of the Nobel Prize-winning author V. S. Naipaul by Patrick French.The biography has been extensively reviewed. including by his former acolyte Paul Theroux....

    : The Authorized Biography of V. S. Naipaul
    (Random House)
  • 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).

External links

  • Nobel Lecture: Two Worlds at NobelPrize.org
  • Editing Vidia, Diana Athill
    Diana Athill
    Diana Athill OBE is a British literary editor, novelist and memoirist who worked with some of the most important writers of the 20th century.-Life and writings:...

    , Granta
    Granta is a literary magazine and publisher in the United Kingdom whose mission centers on its "belief in the power and urgency of the story, both in fiction and non-fiction, and the story’s supreme ability to describe, illuminate and make real." In 2007, The Observer stated, "In its blend of...

    , a memoir of Naipaul by his editor
  • A literary Brown Sahib
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