Other – Literary Arts
Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul is a world-acclaimed writer and the first Trinidad-born person to be honoured with the award of a Nobel Prize. Hailed as one of the _nest writers in the English language, Sir Vidia drew deeply from his observation and understanding of Trinidad society for the early works of fiction that brought him to the attention of the literary world.
Right from the beginning, V.S. Naipaul was recognised as a writer of quality. His first novel, Mystic Masseur, was awarded the 1958 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, which is given for the best work of literature by a Commonwealth writer 35 years and under. However, it was House for Mr Biswas (1961) that convinced the literary establishment and launched his international reputation. His fourth published book, House for Mr Biswas, is regarded as a twentieth century masterpiece.
The breakthrough came just 11 years after he had arrived in London on a scholarship to University College, Oxford, from Queen’s Royal College in Port of Spain. He had carried with him 18 years of observation and experience of growing up in colonial Trinidad that would provide the grist for half of his body of fiction and several works of non-fiction.
In recent years, Sir Vidia has become more of a travel writer, applying his penetrating eye and precise pen to people and societies around the world. Along the way, he has collected a string of honours, including a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in 1989, and a series of awards. At the apex of his collection of awards stands the Nobel Prize for Literature, 2001. In its citation, the Nobel Committee said the prize was being awarded to him “for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories”.
V.S. Naipaul has also been honoured in his own homeland. In 1989, Trinidad and Tobago awarded him its highest honour of the Trinity Cross. In April 2007, he was the guest of honour of the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies where his contribution to Caribbean literature and letters was celebrated over the course of an entire week.
He has also been given honorary doctorates from Cambridge University and Columbia University in New York, and honorary degrees from the universities of Cambridge, London and Oxford. Throughout it all, V.S. Naipaul has kept to the singular pursuit of writing.