Naipaul, V. S. (1932–)

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Naipaul, V. S. (1932–)

The celebrated novelist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001, Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, of Indian Brahman descent, was born a British citizen on August 17, 1932, in Chaguanas, Trinidad. Seepersad Naipaul, a journalist, embraced and encouraged his son's aspiration to become a writer before the former's unexpected death in 1953. After graduating from Queen's Royal College in Port of Spain in 1948, V. S. Naipaul studied literature at Oxford with a scholarship from the Trinidadian government. At Oxford he met Patricia Hale; they married in 1955. After his Oxford years (1950–1953), Naipaul worked as a journalist for the British Broadcasting Corporation's program Caribbean Voices and wrote reviews for The New Statesman, a progressive literary journal founded in London in 1913.

Naipaul's first novel, The Mystic Masseur (1957), follows the winding journey of an East-Indian young man in Trinidad who dreams of becoming a writer. The semiautobiographical novel saw little success initially but later became a renowned work; the novelist Caryl Phillips wrote the screenplay for the 2002 film of the same name. His second novel, Miguel Street (1959), the story of a young boy in Trinidad who leaves the island to study abroad, also was met with little fanfare. A House for Mr. Biswas (1961), also a story of a Brahman Indian in Trinidad, was Naipaul's break-through success and propelled what would become an illustrious career of both fiction and nonfiction. As early as the 1950s Naipaul was writing essays and descriptions of his travels among fellow West Indians. His notable nonfiction books include The Middle Passage (1962), India: A Wounded Civilization (1977), Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey (1981), and Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions among the Converted Peoples (1998). Naipaul reinforced his credentials as a novelist with A Way in the World (1994) and Half a Life (2001). Naipaul's wife died in 1996; he subsequently married Nadira Alvi, a Pakistani journalist. Apart from the Nobel Prize, Naipaul's other honors include the Booker Prize in 1971, British knighthood in 1989, and the David Cohen British Literature Prize in 1993. As of 2007 Naipaul resides in England.

See alsoLiterature: Spanish America; Travel Literature.


Dooley, Gillian. V. S. Naipaul, Man and Writer. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2006.

Feder, Lillian. Naipaul's Truth: The Making of a Writer. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2001.

Kamra, Shashi. The Novels of V. S. Naipaul: A Study in Theme and Form. New Delhi: Prestige Books, 1990.

Theroux, Paul. V. S. Naipaul, an Introduction to His Work. London: Deutsch, and New York: Africana Pub. Corp., 1972.

                                      Patrick Barr-Melej