New Delhi: Tributes continue to pour in for renowned British novelist and Nobel-laureate VS Naipaul who died at his home in London Saturday. He was 85.
Stalwarts from the literary world and fans world over have expressed sorrow at the death of the noted author, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2001.
Naipaul was born in Trinidad and Tobago in 1932. His family had migrated from India in the second half of the 19th century. Speaking about this in his Nobel speech, Naipaul said that at the time of his birth, the country’s population was about 4,00,000, of which 1,50,000 were Indians who had migrated largely from the Gangetic plains.
Naipaul started writing in 1951 during his days at Oxford University. Over the years, he won numerous awards in illustrious career that spanned decades. The master storyteller was best known for his works like the ‘A House for Mr Biswas’, ‘In a Free State’ and ‘A Bend in the River’.
News agency Reuters in a report said his first published novel, ‘The Mystic Masseur’, written in 1955, was poorly received at first but the following year won him his first literary award, the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize for young authors.
In 1998, Naipaul received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II.
THE INDIAN CONNECTION
Speaking about the Indian influence on his life and approach towards writing, Naipaul in his Nobel speech said he was greatly influenced by the short stories his father wrote on the Indian community in Trinidad and Tobago.
“If it were not for the short stories my father wrote I would have known almost nothing about the general life of our Indian community. Those stories gave me more than knowledge. They gave me a kind of solidity. They gave me something to stand on in the world. I cannot imagine what my mental picture would have been without those stories,” he said.
In the speech, Naipaul then goes on to describe how he learnt a lot about India from the writings and actions of leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi, along with British-Indian writers like John Masters and Rudyard Kipling.
“There was the writing of Nehru and Gandhi; and strangely it was Gandhi, with his South African experience, who gave me more, but not enough. There was Kipling; there were British-Indian writers like John Masters; there were romances by women writers. The few Indian writers who had come up at that time were middle-class people, town-dwellers; they didn’t know the India we had come from,” he said.
Speaking in a lighter vein, he recounted that he was born in a small country-town called Chaguanas in Trinidad. But the problem for Naipaul, and other people of Indian origin (who were a majority in the town), was that it was difficult to pronounce. To tackle this everyday challenge, the Indian community devised a way out and started calling it ‘Chauhan’, the Hindu surname that is common in India.
It was only when Naipaul was 34 that he came to know his birth place is Chaguanas and not Chauhan.