Sir Vidia: The Indian boy from Trinidad

He's the toast of the literary world?Featuring Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul? Nobel Laureate for Literature in 2001?

"I never knew my face was fat. The picture said so. I looked at the Asiatic on the paper and thought that an Indian from India could look no more Indian than I did... I had hoped to send up a striking intellectual pose to the University people, but look what they have got"?Thus wrote Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul to his elder sister after having some pictures of himself taken for his application to the University of Oxford. Almost half a century later, intellectual pose or not, the Indian boy from Trinidad has gone on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. And in those corridors where scholars gather together to discuss post-colonial literature?whether they revile or admire him?Naipaul's name is always discussed.


We take you the origins, the defining characteristics and the landmark milestones that have gone into the making of the man.

West Indian? Indian? Brit? V S Naipaul was born in Chaguanas, Trinidad on August 17, 1932. He belonged to a Hindu Brahmin family. But his grandparents lost their caste when they crossed the waters to settle in the West Indies in the 1880s. In his later years, Naipaul would settle in Britain. But, he always saw himself as an anchorless soul, with spiritual and cultural roots undefined by any particular geography.


The other Naipuls: His father, Seepersad Naipaul, a journalist was Vidiadhar's hero. While Seepersad never lived to see his son's success, Naipaul said of his father, "he made the vocation of the writer seem the noblest in the world; and I decided to be that noble thing."

In a family that made writing their vocation, Vidia's brother Shiva Naipaul studied at Oxford too. He graduated with a degree in Chinese and published books of his own. Later, as a travel writer, he was often published by the Spectator. When just forty, he suffered a hear-attack and died an early death, like his father before him.


Married to: Patricia Hale and later to Nadira Khan.

Education: He came to Oxford on a scholarship from Queen's Royal College in 1950. He spent four years at University College, Oxford, where he read English.

His first fulltime job: The second producer of the BBC radio program Caribbean Voices, where he began to write.

The first Book: Miguel Street, published in 1959.

What does he write about? While Naipaul does write fiction, as in his first novel Miguel Street, he is best known for his depiction of the conflicts of culture in the world around him. In the words of Alfred Kazin?"a compelling master of social truth."

He got his Booker prize for: In a free state (1971).


Knighted in: 1989.

Hate mail: Naipaul was in the news again for all the wrong reasons in 1998 when Paul Theroux published Sir Vidia's Shadow. Their friendship that spanned many decades ended in angry recriminations from Theroux.

And now the Nobel Prize for Literature?"for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories."