Prag News Desk:
Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul or rather Sir Vidia as he was called by his close associates was a resident of Trinidad, who penned comic master pieces of island life before turning to the larger world, travelling from South America to Africa and Asia for richly detailed works on post-colonial states, died yesterday, August 11 at his home in London.
His family announced the death in a statement. The cause was not immediately known.
In the second half of the 20th century, few writers were as praised-or-scorned- as Naipaul, a prose stylist with talent as great as his penchant for controversy. “If a writer doesn’t generate hostility,” Naipaul once said, “he is dead”.
Sir Vidia, as he was sometimes known after being knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1990 faced accusations of racism, sexism, chauvinism and Islamophobia.
He had long-running literary spats with Paul Theroux, a former protégé who lambasted Naipaul as “a grouch, a skinflint, tantrum-prone,” and the poet Derek Walcott, a Caribbean peer who depicted Naipaul in a poem as “a rodent in old age.”
His books – which included the realis novels “ A House for Mr. Biswas” (1961), “A Bend in the River” (1979) and the Man Booker Prize-winning “In a Free State” (1971) – were considered works of a technical virtuoso, whom even Walcott hailed as “our finest writer of the English sentence.” With few exceptions, his sentences were knife-sharp, devoid of fuss of flair but often lyrical in their simplicity.
Naipaul wrote “Biswas”, the book that vaulted him to acclaim, when he was in his 20s, after moving to England on a scholarship to the University of Oxford.
Naipaul was initially known as a gentle chronicler of West Indian Life, seen by some critics as part of a group that included Trinidian writer Sam Selvon, the Barbadian novelist George Lamming and Walcott, who was from Saint Lucia.
After “Biswas, however Naipaul rarely wrote about his country with any warmth. Trinidad, Naipaul wrote in the 1962 travelogue “The Middle Passage,” was “unimportnat, uncreative, cynical,” home to “a society which produced nothing, never had to prove its worth, and was never called upon to be efficient.”