V. S. Naipaul
Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul (b. 1932) is of Indian ancestry and spent his first 18 years in Trinidad. After that he went to England to study and began to write, in London.
During his prolific career, he has won almost every major literary award. His stark and deceptively simplistic style has earned him the honour of being one of the best prose stylists today.
His earlier novels are comic in nature, but later evolved into serious works on the nature of civilisations, religion, and colonial and colonised nations. He has travelled extensively, and based on those travels brought out his keen impressions in both fiction and non-fiction. His extremely candid, forthright and seemingly arrogant views have earned him both bouquets and brickbats. Love him or hate him, one cannot ignore the man or his writing.
He was knighted in 1990 and awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 2001.
- The Mystic Masseur
- The Suffrage of Elvira
- Miguel Street
- A House for Mr. Biswas
- The Middle Passage
- Mr. Stone and the Knights Companion
- An Area of Darkness
- The Mimic Men
- A Flag on the Island
- The Loss of El Dorado
- In a Free State
- The Overcrowded Barracoon
- India: A Wounded Civilisation
- A Bend in the River
- The Return of Eva Peron
- Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey
- Finding the Centre
- The Enigma of Arrival
- A Turn in the South
- India: A Million Mutinies Now
- A Way in the World
- Beyond Belief
- Letters Between a Father and Son
- Half a Life
- Magic Seeds
Miguel Street is set in a derelict corner of Port of Spain, Trinidad, during World War II and is narrated by an unnamed, precociously observant neighbourhood boy. A galaxy of characters is depicted: from Popo the carpenter, who neglects his livelihood to build “the thing without a name”, to Man-man, who goes from running for public office to staging his own crucifixion, and the dreaded Big-Foot, the bully with glass tear ducts. As well as the lovely Mrs Hereira, in thrall to her monstrous husband.
Naipaul writes with prescient wisdom and crackling wit about the lives and legends that make up Miguel Street; a living theatre, a world in microcosm, a cacophony of sights, sounds and smells—all seen through the eyes of a fatherless boy. The language, the idioms and the observations are priceless and timeless and it overflows with life on every page. This is an enchanting and exuberant tribute to Naipaul’s childhood home.
The Mystic Masseur is the story of the rise and rise of Ganesh, from failed primary school teacher and struggling masseur to author, revered mystic and MBE. It is a journey memorable for its hilarious and bewildering success.
An unforgettable cast of characters witnesses this meteoric ascent: Ganesh’s father-in-law, Ramlogan, whose shop gave the impression that “every morning someone went over everything in it—scales, Ramlogan, and all—with a greased rag”; his aunt, the Great Belcher, with her troubling wind; his wife Leela and her fondness for putting a punctuation mark after every word.
Soon, Ganesh’s small hut is filled with books (1,500, as his wife will attest), and his trousers and shirt disappear to be replaced by more suitable attire for a proper mystic. As “The Woman Who Couldn’t Eat” and “Lover Boy”, the man who fell in love with his bicycle, line up to be cured, it looks like the mystic masseur is surely destined for greatness.
An Area of Darkness is Naipauls’s semi-autobiographical account—at once painful and hilarious, always concerned—of his first visit to India, the land of his forbears. He was twenty-nine years old; he stayed for a year. From his inauspicious arrival in Prohibition-dry Bombay, bearing whisky and cheap brandy, he began to experience a sense of cultural estrangement from the subcontinent. It became for him a land of myths, an area of darkness closing up behind him as he travelled…
An Area of Darkness is a work of sharp luminosity whose insights continue to inform generation after generation of travellers to India. The book, however, was severly panned by Indian critics and readers who found it dwelling only on the negative, an inspection of the gutters. Naipaul himself has moved on, stating this particular book was the outcome of an emotional reaction at that age.
The Middle Passage is Naipaul’s first travel book. He undertook this Caribbean journey at the invitation, in 1960, of Dr. Eric Williams, the first Prime Minister of independent Trinidad, the author’s birthplace.
It is both a journey to the familiar and the strange, and Naipaul records it all with immense sensitivity, honesty and clear analysis. He journeys to British Guiana, Surinam, Martinique and Jamaica forming a provocative, and at times piercingly funny study of socities whose common heritage of colonialism and slavery is examined with unique insight.
The Middle Passage catches the topsy-turvy world of the Caribbean at a critical moment: a world by turns sad, earnest and hilarious—indeed, a perfect subject for the understanding and comedy of this great writer.
A Turn in the South is Naipaul’s searing journey into the psyche of the Southern states of United States. The objective of this journey is to understand and unravel the present state of the South burdened by its layers of history: the new settlers displacing the original Indians; slavery amid the cotton fields and plantations; the Civil War, and the ensuing defeat; the Ku Klux Klan, rednecks, and racism after the granting of civil rights to blacks; and the racial question that refuses to go away from the minds of both black and white.
Naipaul traverses the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida seeking answers, delving into both sides of the racial divide to find out the effect of religion, the role of black leaders such as Martin Luther King and Booker T. Washington, and ultimately, whether the South will ever be able to let go of its past.