Biography of V.S. Naipaul

Winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Literature, Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul was a Trinidadian novelist and essayist who wrote about life and society in the Caribbean, which he treated with a sharp, cynical wit for which he is famous. He was born in Chaguanas, Trinidad on August 17, 1932, the eldest son of Seepersad Naipaul, a locally renowned journalist. By the age of 14, Naipaul resolved to leave the island and managed to do so by winning a scholarship to study at Oxford. After graduation, he worked briefly in London at the National Portrait Gallery and BBC while trying to make a start as a writer; he married Patricia Ann Hale in 1955.

Over the several years during which he published his first novels (The Mystic Masseur, 1957; The Suffrage of Elvira, 1958; Miguel Street, 1959), which offered comic and formally innovative portrayals of West Indian life, Naipaul reviewed books at The New Statesman. In 1961 he published the autobiographical A House for Mr. Biswas, his first major novel and the book that cemented his reputation as a writer of both realist conviction and superb wit. He returned to Trinidad the next year to write The Middle Passage, the first of his many travel books.

Further novels, such as The Mimic Men (1967), In a Free State (1971), Guerrillas (1975), and A Bend in the River (1979) range across the world to consider the ongoing decolonization in the Caribbean and Africa. Naipaul also published several essay collections and memoirs; his last book was The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief (2010). He was knighted by the Queen in 1989 and received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001.


Study Guides on Works by V.S. Naipaul

Half a Life is a novel written by V.S. Naipaul in 2001. The novel revolves around the story of Willie Somerset Chandran, whose father is a Brahmin from the Hindu caste system and his mother a Dalit. Willie's middle name 'Somerset' comes from the...

A House for Mr. Biswas was V. S. Naipaul’s fourth novel, following three earlier efforts that were essentially all comedies of manners set in the author’s homeland of Trinidad. This predominantly comic novel, which made Naipaul a major figure in...

The Mystic Masseur is a contemporary fiction novel by V.S. Naipaul published in 1957 in England. It won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in 1958, and was also adapted into a full-length film of the same name by the film company Merchant Ivory.

This...