The Chinua Achebe Encyclopedia

By M. Keith Booker | Go to book overview

N

NAIPAUL, SIR V(IDIADHAR) S(URAJPRASAD)

. Born in Trinidad in 1932 to Brahmin Hindu parents, V.S. Naipaul went to school in Trinidad, then later received his bachelor's degree in English literature from University College, Oxford. He began his writing career while working for the Caribbean service of the British Broadcasting Corporation and soon received recognition as a major literary voice in Britain and abroad. In addition to fiction, Naipaul has produced a substantial amount of nonfiction prose, primarily travel writing. He is a prolific writer; to date, he has authored more than two dozen books. He won the Nobel Prize in literature in 2001, in particular for his The Enigma of Arrival, a “novel” that intricately combines a number of genres, such as the autobiography, travelogue, and fiction. Enigma is also indicative of Naipaul's later work in the way it suggests a mellowing of Naipaul's notoriously harsh attitude toward developing Third World societies. This attitude has been distasteful to many, provoking Derek Walcott, another Caribbean author and a Nobel winner himself, to call him “V.S. Nightfall” in one of his poems.

Africa, however, receives the worst score in Naipaul's writing on postcolonial Third World societies; African writing and writers don't fare well either. He refers somewhat positively to Achebe in a 1971 interview where he discusses a variety of issues. He says, “there are good writers who are African. Chinua Achebe is a grand writer by most people's standards” (Jussawalla 27). Then he adds, “but he [Achebe] is not published in his own country. His work needs the blessing of a foreign market…the local society doesn't have any body of judgment as yet” (27). Next Naipaul goes on to attack the whole enterprise of “African writing, ” and what begins as something of a tribute becomes a veiled denigration of Achebe and his like—though Achebe is not mentioned again in the interview. African writers won't help themselves by writing “the sort of selfconscious 'African Writing' which is obsessed with tribal mores,” Naipaul declares (28). One wonders who he has in mind when he says, “[T]o encourage a young man merely to write nostalgically about tribal life is really slightly ridiculous” (29). The following statement reveals his undisguised loathing of Africa and its people: “I began my recent book about Africa with a great hatred of everyone, of the entire continent; and that had to be refined away, giving place to comprehension” (30). Naipaul probably refers to In a Free State; it was published the same

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The Chinua Achebe Encyclopedia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword: Chinua Achebe and the Institution of African Literature vii
  • Preface xvii
  • Chronology xix
  • A 1
  • B 39
  • C 51
  • D 73
  • E 76
  • F 83
  • G 91
  • H 96
  • I 109
  • J 122
  • K 126
  • L 130
  • M 136
  • N 161
  • O 191
  • P 218
  • R 229
  • S 233
  • T 246
  • U 270
  • V 280
  • W 281
  • Y 286
  • Z 288
  • Bibliography 289
  • Index 303
  • About the Contributors 315
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