Opposition Leader: Sir Vidia’s work was an inspiration

Sir Vidiadhar Surujprasad (VS) Naipaul

(Trinidad Express) Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has extended condolences to the family of global literary icon, Sir Vidiadhar Surujprasad (VS) Naipaul.

 Naipaul, 85, died at his home in London on Saturday.

In a statement, Persad-Bissessar said that tributes will be poured from around the world by some of the greatest contemporary literary and to a lesser extent, political figures would be a testament to Naipaul’s unparalleled greatness as a writer.

She said Naipaul’s work redefined the craft of literature and reinvented the art of nonfiction writing to reflect the turbulent historical era that he was born into.

However, she said for Trinidadians, Naipaul holds an even more special place, having been born and raised here and having dedicated his early and undoubtedly greatest works of fiction to the nation that shaped his aspirations, sensibilities, consciousness and lifelong desires in every possible way.

Persad-Bissessar said Naipaul’s work is especially dear to her given that his writings was inspiring and uplifting.

She said: “for people of my generation, the children of the post-Colonial society that was Trinidad and Tobago, a society and people struggling to find and assume our identity after centuries of being ruled as marginal addendums to a social, economic and political framework that previously treated us as merely tolerated outcasts, Sir Vidia’s work was inspiring and uplifting.

Like so many of my local and regional contemporaries, I would have been raised on books from Europe and England which described and deified people, cultures and civilizations that essentially reflected all that I could never be, until, as teenager and young adult I read Miguel Street, The Mystic Masseur and A House for Mr. Biswas.

And it was in these works, still so dear and personal to me, as they also are undoubtedly to many other of my countrymen and women, that Sir Vidia’s greatest contribution to my country and the world became not only clear, but inspiring in the greatest possible way.

For it was in these works that he made our society, our everyday working class people, who, until then, barely got recognized as worthy, into the literary heroes that ranked with the greatest characters and societies of every other renowned English writer to date.

To read our dialect, or idiosyncrasies, our paradoxes, our flaws, our beauty, our struggles, our lessons and our indelible richness of humanity portrayed so frankly, so unashamedly, so proudly and so intellectually in a Naipaul literary piece gave me personally a sense of pride and belonging, a sense of worth in a global and regional society, something that no other writer had previously given and to date, no other writer has produced to a prolific reader as myself.”

Naipaul was born in 1932 to journalist Seepersad Naipaul and Droapatie Capildeo at Lion House in Chaguanas.

Persad-Bissessar said  that ‘A House For Mr Biswas,’ which chronicled his father’s life as a man born into poverty in the cane fields of Central Trinidad in the period of Colonialism and Indentureship successfully battling to change his stars and achieve relevance through fulfilling his dreams of being an individual, a writer, a man of worth and one who owned his own home in a world where people of his social standing were destined to exist on the margins of the society as a classless and irrelevant people, was considered his greatest literary work.

She said it was this work which established him as a young author, which exceeded “literature’s greatest expectations by redefining the craft and giving voice, relevance and historical worth to the lowest rungs of Colonized outcast societies, making the stories, experiences and characters of a world deemed too insignificant by grand Colonial powers and systems to exist as equally or even more so relevant, necessary and influential as their own.”

Persad-Bissessar said is every other literary works which followed, Naipaul improved his mastery of social observation, analysis and craft, and continue to stun critics, admirers and literary masters of every part of the globe by his mission to fulfil the writer’s self-appointed task of, as he once put in his own words, “meeting people and end up seeing the world through their eyes, seeing their frailties, their needs.”

“It was perhaps this compunction that fueled, in addition to his tremendous works of fiction, his equally amazing prolific body of non-fiction travelogues, where he chose to chronicle his observations in his travels from the 1960s to the 1990s to various civilizations once governed by Colonial masters in the throes of social, religious and political upheaval, and thus redefined the travelogue into a work of literary worth, impact and art.

In this body of work, he produced frank, exacting and analytical social and political commentaries on the Caribbean, Africa, Indian, Middle East and the USA in books such as The Middle Passage: Impressions of Five Societies – British, French and Dutch in the West Indies and South America(1962), An Area of Darkness (1964),The Loss of El Dorado (1969), India: A Wounded Civilization(1977), A Turn in the South (1989), India: A Million Mutinies Now (1990) and Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions among the Converted Peoples (1998).

The enduring controversy that Sir Vidia generated in these works, along with his famed acerbic, arrogant and highly dismissive personality, inspired not only awe and reverence among his greatest fans but equally significant hostility from his fellow writers and detractors who disagreed with his analysis and general world philosophy.

Yet, when the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature was finally awarded to him in 2001, undoubtedly the greatest addition to his long list of top international literary award in his lifetime thus far, no one, critics nor detractors alike, would deny that it was not only well deserved but long overdue, she said.

Persad-Bissessar said she hoped his family would be comforted that his legacy will continue to inspire generations to come.

“May his great soul rest in peace and may his loved ones be comforted in the knowledge that his great legacy can never be undone and will undoubtedly inspire generations to come and endure for eternity,” she said.


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