Novelist and storyteller. In 2001, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. A writer of Indian origin, he is today considered one of the most sublime writers in the English language. His immense body of work includes humor, satire, and local customs, all without sacrificing the attempt at cultural salvation.
Naipaul, whose full name is Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, was born in Chaguanas, a small town on the island of Trinidad on August 17, 1932. The son of immigrants from the north of India, as a boy he was surrounded by an intense intellectual tradition. His father was a self-taught journalist and his brother also achieved a solid reputation as a novelist. This, in part, helped him win a scholarship at 18 years of age to study at the prestigious Oxford University, where he graduated with a degree in Art in 1953.
Naipul did not emigrate to Great Britain with the idea of traveling or studying, but rather the desire to become a writer. During that time, however, he wrote nothing. His father died the same year he graduated from Oxford, a fact that led to a severe nervous breakdown. He even considered suicide. In the following years, he worked as a radio announcer and literary reviewer for the magazine New Statesman.
The appearance of his first novel, The Mystic Masseur, in 1957, was a revelation. In it, a young Naipaul, using clear satirical strokes, created the story in which he made fun of a character who aspired to rise socially in a rural Hindu setting on the island of Trinidad. It was followed by The Suffrage of Elvira and Miguel Street. By this time, Naipaul was becoming an author of some renown. His interest in forgotten stories, colonial conflicts and cultural clashes made up the raw material he used in his novels and travel books.
It was not until the appearance of his novel A House for Mr. Biswas in 1961, however, that Naipaul gained a truly international following. The story of Mr. Biswas is considered one of the sharpest social comedies, and at the same time, one of the most touching, in 20th century English-language literature.
Based on his long journeys around the Caribbean world, Naipaul wrote The Middle Passage in 1962 and after a year of intense traveling in India wrote An Area of Darkness. In this book, he destroys the romantic and exotic idea of India and sinks his narratives in the obvious discrimination, poverty and the contrasting social diversity.
Among his most notable works are A Way in the World, A Bend in the River and The Loss of El Dorado. Naipaul integrates journalism into his travel books, returning somewhat to his father’s vocation. His final book, Reading and Writing: A Personal Account, is an attempt to find himself and discover the passions that have made him write about his Caribbean nature, unavoidably tinged by foreign transculturation.
Author: Christian Ibarra
Published: April 13, 2012.
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