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V. S. Naipaul: a great writer, a man

70dd1f7936a269f16223742c3e04ab2c - V. S. Naipaul: a great writer, a man

The Nobel – and Bookerprijswinnaar V. S. Naipaul is at the age of 85 died. With the Caribbean Briton disappears a writer who carried on hands and maligned. He had a caustic look at the colonialism.

Vidiadhar Surajprasad (Vidia) Naipaul had a closet full of literary trophies when in 2001 he received the Nobel prize. The Swedish Academy found: “In his combative style forges he anger to …

Vidiadhar Surajprasad (Vidia) Naipaul had a closet full of literary trophies when in 2001 he received the Nobel prize. The Swedish Academy found: “In his combative style forges he anger to precision, and he lets the events ironically speak for themselves’, and placed him in the tradition of Montesquieu’s Persian letters and Written Candide. That are at first glance strange bedfellows. Were it not that in both work travelers testify to the follies of distant civilizations, and therein lies perhaps the point of tangency. Naipaul took in his novels and travel books in the same way the world, and in particular the third world, or better yet: the post-colonial nations.

The 50s and 60s saw a wave of dekolonisaties. The South cheered. But Naipaul was not high on the revs. He saw mainly “half-societies” where suffocating traditions and new despotism luxuriantly flourished. He found the nonsense of the West’s debt to continue to give for everything that went wrong. If the third world ugly child was, had mainly themselves to thank. That was a pretty straight point of view, in times of tiermondisme and dependencia theory.

In conversation with The Standard of the Arts in 1997, said Naipaul: ‘Used to have the craziest ideas about Asia, Africa. A French writer who had a criticism on the French, an American writer who is the US them along gave, O. K., but criticism of third-world countries, like those in my books was, that was out of the question.’

Naipaul found out that he was right to speak had. As a son of India who emigrated parents, he grew up in the British colony of Trinidad, a small island in the Caribbean. Too small, to suit the taste. At the age of eighteen he was chosen for a scholarship, got on the plane and went to study in Britain. There went the world open for him; the West was now his point of reference. Because there he had the opportunity to develop itself, not in the oppressive Trinidad, as he once said, ‘unimportant, uncreative, cynical… speck on the world map’.

In Miguel Street, one of his earliest bundles (1959), the sense aptly captured in the very last sentence: “I left them all behind and got merry on the plane without a look back, just looked ahead, and saw my shadow, a dancing dwarf on the tarmac.’

A piercing look in his gaze

Miguel Street is one of the four books that Naipaul in Trinidad. The fourth is the best known and represented his international breakthrough: A house for Mr. Biswas (1961). Mr. Biswas, who we Naipauls father may recognize, wants to make something of his life (a ‘private house’), but is opposed by his unruly environment.

In the mid-60’s looks Naipaul away from the Caribbean and he visits the land of his ancestors, India. The title of his report says it all: An area of darkness (1964). That is a cynical show continues in its second India-book India. A wounded civilization (1977) and gets only a little on with A million mutinies now (1990).

Africa escapes nor is it to Naipauls a piercing look in his eyes. In 1971, he received the Bookerprijs for his novel A state of freedom about two white people in a civil war in Africa. The Zaire of Mobutu goes mercilessly on the shovel in the novel A bend in the river (1979). South America’s turn in the return of Eva Perón (1980): Buenos Aires is in Naipauls eyes not sparkling metropolis, but ‘copied from dead European models, there is no aesthetic energy, nor imagination. “The only real Argentine are the slums.’

It should not come as a surprise that Naipaul uitgekreten was as the ventriloquist of a betweterig western imperialism. The Palestinian thinker Edward Said accused him that ” he is no analysis in his essays, only observation’. Naipaul must that considered a great compliment. He did, after all, not theory. Only the sighting was ‘true’. By the way, about imperialism, spoken: “There is no worse war than that of islam and the Arabs,” he said, and referred to his travel books, Among believers (1981) and beyond belief (1998), each time a trip by non-Arab, muslim countries, the fundamentalism saw flare up.

If it still isn’t clear: for Naipaul there is no place for romantic ideas about the warm countries, where the life is so nice and the community is so caring. The people there are ignorant, untrained and lives of lies, he considered killing. Or, with a quote from a domain of darkness: “The crisis is not only political or economic. The crisis is that of an old, wounded civilization which is not intellectually capable is forward.’

That is because the third world refuses the values of the first, and thus the enlightenment, to embrace. Naipaul in DSL: ‘The core is a fantastic idea: the pursuit of happiness (…) and that includes everything: the individual choices can make, and therefore also responsibility, the vervolmaakbaarheid of our lives.’

In the beginning of the 80’s met Anil Ramdas, a writer of Surinamese descent, Naipaul, in Amsterdam, together with a friend. Naipaul greeted them enthusiastically, and, according to Ramdas, ‘asked what we were doing. Study? Beautiful, and what then? I told him about my desire ever to go back to my country. “Back to the bush? Why?” Naipaul drew his nose. “Here you have civilization found,” he said, “only you can develop”, and turned around.’ Allegedly Naipaul afterwards gebromd: that’s up to them to return to their country, and their drums beating’.


Naipauls boorishness was legendary. The list of lapidary judgments is long. ‘Africa has no future’, ‘Trinidad has never been anything of value produced,’ and the question of what is the voorhoofdstipje of a hindoevrouw means, he replied: ‘It wants to say: my head is empty.’ Also, he knew that female authors never are levels could get.

When you Naipauls biography of Patrick French from, you are overjoyed that he is not your relative, neighbor, business or life partner. He was a treacherous friend: the quarrel with the author Paul Theroux is a chapter in itself. He was also a treacherous spouse: he rotzooide with prostitutes, had a long affair with a younger woman (who sometimes hits it got) and when his wife diminished to cancer, he numbered the days off to be with another to be married. It is intriguing that scathing biography that Naipaul advance the manuscript for inspection. He changed there is no letter.

It must be said: as a writer transcends Naipaul his shortcomings as a human being. In the accuracy with which he, with the words of a coherent structure knutselt, he transforms from boertige for the astute, stijlvaste and impressive Naipaul that we know from the books. His anger is precision.

In 1992 won the Caribbean poet Derek Walcott, the Nobel prize for Literature. Walcott and Naipaul were each other’s antipoden. While Walcott’s eye for the charm of the sunlit islands, banjerde Naipaul by the post-colonial areas of darkness and there was hypocrisy and absurdity.

Walcott threw Naipaul ever for the feet that ” he is not of negroes,’ and stuck with him, the dragon poems in, among others, in the Spoiler’s return, in which a reïncarnerende singer like to get together with Naipaul (‘Nightfall’) that damned Caribbean islands to cheer (I hope when I die, after burial/ to come back as an insect or animal/ I see these islands and I feel to bawl/ ‘area of darkness’ with V. S. Nightfall).

But still. The Caribbean author Caryl Phillips explains in an essay that he go straight to Walcott called when in 2001 he learned that Naipaul the Nobel prize for Literature. Walcott sounded extremely satisfied, recalls Phillips, “and said,” Except the price of even one time to me, grant, is that the best of what the Nobelprijscomité could do.”

Salman Rushdie brought yesterday to pay tribute to Naipaul. “We differed throughout our lives, about politics and literature, but I feel so sad when I have just a beloved older brother, lost.”

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