Nobel Peace Prize laureate V.S. Naipaul dead at 85

This 2001 file photo shows British author V.S. Naipaul in Salisbury, England. The Trinidad-born Nobel laureate whose celebrated writing and brittle, provocative personality drew admiration and revulsion in equal measures, died Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018, at his London home, his family said. He was 85.
Chris Ison / PA via Associated Press

V.S. Naipaul, the Trinidadian-born literary giant and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, died at his home in London on Saturday. He was 85.

Naipaul, of Indian descent, whose full name was Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, was renowned for his “pessimistic novels set in developing countries,” according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

It said that, for these revelations of what the Swedish Academy called “suppressed histories,” Naipaul won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001.

Born on Aug. 17, 1932, in Chaguanas, Trinidad and Tobago, the Britannica said Naipaul “descended from Hindu Indians who had immigrated to Trinidad and Tobago as indentured servants.”

He left Trinidad and Tobago in 1950 to attend the University of Oxford and subsequently settled in England, although he traveled extensively afterwards, the Britannica said.

It said Naipaul’s earliest books — “The Mystic Masseur,” 1957; “The Suffrage of Elvira,” 1958; and “Miguel Street,” 1959 – are “ironic and satirical accounts of life in the Caribbean.”

Encyclopedia Britannica said Naipaul’s fourth novel, “A House for Mr. Biswas” (1961), also set in Trinidad and Tobago, “was a much more important work and won him major recognition.

“It centers on the main character’s attempt to assert his personal identity and establish his independence as symbolized by owning his own house,” it said.

“Naipaul’s subsequent novels used other national settings but continued to explore the personal and collective alienation experienced in new nations that were struggling to integrate their native and Western-colonial heritages,” it added.

Encyclopedia Britannica said the three stories in “In a Free State” (1971), which on Britain’s Booker Prize, are set in various countries.

“Guerrillas (1975) is a despairing look at an abortive uprising on a Caribbean island; and A Bend in the River (1979) pessimistically examines the uncertain future of a newly independent state in Central Africa,” it said. “A Way in the World (1994) is an essay-like novel examining how history forms individuals’ characters.”

Naipaul’s other novels include “The Mimic Men” (1967) and “The Enigma of Arrival” (1987), Encyclopedia Britannica said.

It added that among Naipaul’s nonfiction works are three studies of India: An Area of Darkness (1965); India: A Wounded Civilization (1977); and India: A Million Mutinies Now (1990).

The other non-fiction works are: The Five Societies — British, French and Dutch — in the West Indies (1963); and Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey (1981).

Nine years after Naipaul was knighted in 1989, he published “Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples,” a portrayal of the Islamic faith in the lives of ordinary people in Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia, Encyclopedia Britannica said.

In 2001, it said Naipaul published “Half a Life,” a novel about an Indian immigrant to England and then Africa.

“He becomes ‘half a person,’ as Naipaul has said, ‘living a borrowed life,’” Encyclopedia Britannica said.

Released the year that Naipaul received the Nobel Peace Prize, it said “Half a Life” “was considered by many critics to illustrate beautifully the reasons that he won the prize.”

Encyclopedia Britannica said Naipaul’s subsequent works include “The Writer and the World” (2002) and “Literary Occasions” (2003), both collections of previously published essays.

The novel “Magic Seeds” (2004) is a sequel to “Half a Life,” Encyclopedia Britannica said.

“In The Masque of Africa” (2010) – which was based on Naipaul’s travels to Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda and South Africa — “Naipaul returned to his exploration of religion, focusing on African beliefs,” Encyclopedia Britannica said.

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