Sir V.S. Naipaul, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, died on August 11th, in his apartment at London, at age 85. Naipaul was known for his literary exploration of identity. His works focused on the trauma rendered by the colonial and post-colonial ages. He had gained huge success with works such as A House for Mr Biswas (1961), The Mystic Masseur (1957), A Bend in the River (1979), and In A Free State (1971), the last of which earned the Man Booker Prize, the highest glory in English literature.
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Born in a family with Indian roots in Trinidad, Naipaul had a dream of becoming a writer when he was ten. At the age of eighteen, earning a scholarship, he studied English literature at University of College, Oxford; after that, he’d moved to London till his end of life.
Naipaul’s writing career was not always smooth sailing. According to an interview in 1994, he was trapped in depression and had “the sense of being absolutely lost” while writing his The Suffrage of Elvira, a comic novel. In the same interview, Naipaul stated that “one always writes comedy at the moment of deepest hysteria.”
In 1957, Naipaul’s first novel The Mystic Masseur was published. The book represents the culture of World War II in the British colonized Trinidad. In 1961, his A House for Mr. Biswas, a novel dealing with racial issues, came to the public and made him big. In 1990, Naipaul was bestowed a Knighthood by the Queen.
When Naipaul was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001, the Sweden Academy praised him as “a literary circumnavigator, only ever really at home in himself, in his inimitable voice.”
This inimitable voice of Naipaul changed the world. Though the history of colonization seems far away from us, the legacy of it, both good and bad, still lives with us. For those historically unheard, defeaters or victimizers, a contemporary writer who is willing to represent the buried (intended or naturally) fragmentations of history becomes a channel of reidentification.
Let’s commemorate Sir V.S. Naipaul whose death is a great loss to the literary world.
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