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PM leads tributes to VS Naipaul
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has extended condolences to the family of novelist and Nobel Laureate, Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, who died Saturday at his home in Britain, six days shy of his 86th birthday.
“This proud son of T&T established himself as an icon in the literary arts on the global stage and his world-renowned achievements caused his birthplace to shine in a positive light,” he said in a statement issued shortly after news of Naipaul’s death.
Rowley said the Nobel Laureate was “unwavering in his resolve to tell his stories as he saw fit. Moreover, his strength of character was responsible in no small part for his renowned success.
“His literary works will always remain a testimony of his strength and amazing talent as well as ensure that he will never be forgotten. May he rest in peace,” Rowley said.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar described Sir Vidia’s works as inspiring and uplifting.
“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 civilisations 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,” Persad-Bissessar said.
His widow, Lady Naipaul who described Sir Vidia as “a giant in all that he achieved” said he died “surrounded by those he loved having lived a life which was full of wonderful creativity and endeavour.”
Locally, people took to social media to post their tributes to Sir Vidia.
Columnist Ira Mathur shared a photo of her son at an event with the Nobel Laureate during his 2008 visit to T&T and wrote on Twitter: “I heard of his death in the middle of a family celebration. Something shattered in me. The greatest writer in the English Language dead at 85. #Walcott, now him. #CaribbeanLiterature. Thank you for the words #SirVidia.”
On Facebook, Nigel A Campbell recalled his encounter with the renown writer:
“The UWI SPEC hall was ram, and all I thinking was, ‘if I don’t get up early to join that line, he might only sign a few books and leave.’ So you could imagine the scramble when his readings were over, and the announcement was made to form a line for signings. So here I was in the line with my ratty copy of the first American edition of his first novel, The Mystic Masseur. (US$5 on eBay in 2001. Some people don’t value “old books”) I nearly left the book in my car thinking that he wouldn’t want to sign an old book.
(My pal Afra and his mother said, ‘nah bring it.’)
“So you could imagine my horror when Vidia wife, Nadira, grab the microphone and said, ‘Sir Vidia won’t be signing old books! only new books purchased at the event.
“At this point, I was three from the front of the line. Someone earlier handed him random pieces of paper to sign so they could have his signature. He get vex or she get vex, I ain’t know who to blame now. I turned to my right, and his agent Gillon Aitken standing next to me, watched me dead in my eye and said, ‘don’t worry, he will sign that.’
“Aitken shepherded my book to the author. I smile inside.
“We reach the man, he flip it, he turn it back to front. He said, ‘I haven’t seen this in a long time.’ He glanced at me. He was not impressed, I guess, as he said nothing to me.
“He signed it quickly and pushed it aside and looked to the next person in line. I was still rambling to him, “thanks for your presence, for your writing,” but he moved on.
“Now that he is gone, my $5 investment has taken on a new significance. An encounter that lasted all of 30 seconds maximum is now an heirloom. (My daughter likes to write.) Thank you, Sir Vidia. RIP.”
Sir Vidia, who was born in Chaguanas on August 17, 1932, wrote more than 30 books, won the Booker Prize in 1971 and the Nobel Prize in literature in 2001, following the late St Lucian Derek Walcott who won the award in 1992.
The Nobel Prize in literature committee awarded Sir Vidia for “having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories.
“Naipaul is a modern philosopher. In a vigilant style, which has been deservedly admired, he transforms rage into precision and allows events to speak with their own inherent irony,” it added.
Sir Vidia, who as a child was read Shakespeare and Dickens by his father, was raised a Hindu and attended Queen’s Royal College in Trinidad. He moved to Britain and enrolled at Oxford University in 1950 after winning a government scholarship.
His first book, The Mystic Masseur, was published in 1951 and a decade later he published his most celebrated novel, A House for Mr Biswas, which took over three years to write.
The editor of the Mail on Sunday, Geordie Greig, a close friend of Sir Vidia, said his death leaves a “gaping hole in Britain’s literary heritage” but there is “no doubt” that his “books live on”.
His first wife, Patricia Hale, died in 1996 and he went on to marry Pakistani journalist, Nadira.
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