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Thursday, 11 October, 2001, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
Naipaul: A singular talent
VS Naipaul
Naipaul had five sisters and one brother
Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul is a figure who inspires either awe or wrath in those who discuss him.

As the author of A House for Mr Biswas, A Bend in the River, An Area of Darkness and the Booker Prize winning In A Free State, Naipaul's literary reputation is assured.

But his personal outbursts and political statements also cause a stir.

Bookseller in Dehli
Orders for his latest book have already jumped
Only last week the writer caused an outcry by saying that Islam's effect on the world was as "calamitous" as that of colonialism, The Guardian reported.

And Maya Jaggi recently wrote in the newspaper that in Naipaul's book A Wounded Civilization (1977) he described a Hindu land injured by both the British Raj and the preceding Islamic conquest, India's "dark ages".

The writer strongly believes that the post-colonial cultures of the developing world are not well adapted to the modern world and are destined to failure as a consequence.

These ideas found their way particularly into his books An Area of Darkness, A Bend in The River and In A Free State.

Naipaul has travelled extensively in the Muslim world whilst researching his books Among the Believers and Beyond Belief.

Paul Theroux
The writer was a mentor of younger author Theroux
Though he now lives in Britain, the writer was born in Trinidad in 1932.

He came to England on a scholarship from Queen's Royal College in 1950. He spent four years at University College, Oxford, where he read English.

The next step he took was to work on radio - as a producer on the BBC radio programmes Caribbean Voices, which nurtured many subsequently famous writers.

Naipaul can lay claim to being the most successful of the writers who left the Caribbean in the 1950s, having won most of the world's leading English language literary prizes.

VS Naipaul
Naipaul is also an acclaimed travel writer
Many consider his masterpiece to be The House of Mr Biswas, which was published in 1961.

The book tells the story of his father Seepersad's life in the Caribbean.

He is also acclaimed as a travel writer, a career which began when the Trinidadian prime minister commissioned an account of the Caribbean.

And his work has made it onto the big screen, with a film of his 1957 book The Mystic Masseur, by Merchant and Ivory, set for release in the autumn.


The 69-year-old does not appear to have mellowed with old age.

A recent review in The Guardian said Naipaul has "likened Tony Blair to a pirate whose socialist revolution had imposed a plebeian culture".

It added that he said Charles Dickens "died from self-parody" and that he did not have the time to read Salman Rushdie.

He also has a long-running feud with Paul Theroux, author of The Mosquito Coast.

Theroux's 1998 book, Sir Vidia's Shadow, was less than complimentary about the writer.

And Naipaul's latest novel, Half A Life, was dismissed by Theroux as "the slightest book Naipaul has ever written and unquestionably the weirdest" in The Guardian.

BBC News Online's review was more circumspect about the book, describing it as a book of "acute observation adding that "Naipaul writes about a racially complex world with all the compassion and insight which is missing in some of his public pronouncements".

See also:

21 Sep 01 | Reviews
The return of Naipaul
18 Jan 01 | Entertainment
DR Congo's literary past
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