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Remembering the complex legacy of VS Naipaul

R.I.P: VS Naipaul

TRINIDADIAN-BORN author VS Naipaul dedicated decades to a career in book publishing. The 85-year-old who died on August 11 is known for his extraordinary novels, fiction and non-fictional telling’s, that often discussed, India, Africa, the Islamic world and the Americas.

Starting out as a young writer, Naipaul began writing at 11-years old. His early works of fiction were written in his 30s, after his marriage to Patricia “Pat” Hale in 1955.

Some of his well-known works include 'The Mystic Masseur', 'The Suffrage of Elvira', 'Miguel Street' and 'A House for Mr Biswas' which were all set in Trinidad.

Despite the distinguished presence of his homeland within his works, this later proved a challenge as Naipaul offended Trinidadians by criticising the island in his book, The Middle Passage, for being “unimportant, uncreative, and cynical”.

In addition, Naipaul was also criticised for being “racist, misogynistic and Islamophobic”, which put him at heads with peers including Edward Said, Derek Walcott and Paul Theroux.

While his career often sparked furious debate, Naipaul’s “problematic” stance on the publishing industry will be sorely missed.

Fellow novelist and essayist, Salman Rushdie, wrote on the news of his death: “We disagreed all our lives, about politics, about literature, and I feel as sad as if I just lost a beloved older brother. RIP Vidia. #VSNaipaul.”

Nevertheless, the critic has never held the renowned novelist back. In 2001, the laureate won the Nobel Prize for literature that praised his “incorruptible scrutiny.”

His insights were sharp, witty and honed by the precision of his ideas and as a prominent household name, Naipaul is one of the few writers who had such a renowned and complex impact across the diaspora.

He leaves behind a powerful print in literature that will undoubtedly be remembered in the years to come.

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