V. S. Naipaul was born on this day in 1932. He put Trinidad and Tobago on the map with the literature he churned out- thirty books in half a century. He won several awards including the Booker Prize, the Jerusalem Prize, the Trinity Cross and the Nobel Prize in Literature.
He was awarded the Nobel “for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories.”
“Naipaul is a modern philosopher carrying on the tradition that started originally with Lettres persanes and Candide. In a vigilant style, which has been deservedly admired, he transforms rage into precision and allows events to speak with their own inherent irony.”
His grandparents were indentured servants who had left India when the Great Famine left them with no choice but to flee the country. His father Seepersad inspired him to be a novelist.
Naipaul ended up moving from Trinidad and Tobago to study at Oxford and he worked as a journalist on a part-time basis with the BBC. When he spoke about his writing process, he often referred to how he was entirely self-taught. He learned about writing from the act of writing itself.
His initial novels were set in the remote region of Trinidad and Tobago. It was A House for Mr Biswas that established Naipaul as a fixture in the British literary scene. His voice is tinged with irony and even his non-fiction has the aspect of fiction. During his Nobel Banquet Speech, he told a little tale of how his watch stopped when he arrived in Stockholm. For him, storytelling was the only mode of expression.
His legacy is, however, one of contradictions, his views are often accused of being controversial and misogynistic.