VS Naipaul’s death an incalculable loss

first_imgDear Editor,VS Naipaul’s scholarship has touched every corner of the globe. Unlike most other writers, his writings covered many subjects. And he wrote courageously, critiquing Third World societies, especially their leaders, for mimicking the developed world that they condemned.I found VS Naipaul very pleasant and engaging in our brief exchanges. I encountered Naipaul in January 2003 at the Sheraton Hotel in New Delhi where we both were staying and attending the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) convention organised by the Government of India. Naipaul was a keynote speaker (and an honouree of the Samman Award) of India’s Government. His 30 books and countless stories, essays, commentaries, and interviews touched many societies and subjects. It touched, besides literature, several subjects in the social sciences and humanities like Politics, History, Sociology, Anthropology, Fine Arts, among others. And not surprisingly, his writings are used in colleges in several subjects.Some of his books are prescribed for use not only in literature but also in History and other subjects. Most writers tend to focus on only one field of specialisation and one geographic area on which to write. VS Naipaul is perhaps the only writer who has written on virtually every major region or continent and his literary works aptly described life in those societies. His works are used in literature on the Middle East, India, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, the USA, and the UK for he wrote about all of these societies. And there is perhaps no university in the world, where Naipaul’s works are not read in the field of literature.When I first entered university as a youngster at age 17 to study the medical sciences, it was required to take a humanities course. I opted for Africana Literature; VS Naipaul’s works were required reading. And when I did History in graduate school, my late Professor Arthur Schlesinger (advisor to President Kennedy who approved the plan to overthrow the Dr Cheddi Jagan Government in Guyana in the 1960s) required a couple of Naipaul’s books on the course “The Novel as History”. Prof Schlesinger did the same on the course on “Imperialism”.His writings were also prescribed for secondary schools. When I first became a teacher, my supervisor asked me to teach two classes in English Literature. Naipaul’s “Miguel Street” was a prescribed work.Naipaul’s legacy as a writer and scholar is assured. He is widely regarded as a great writer in the English language. At a lecture followed by a question-and-answer period at Queen’s College (Queens, NY) around 1979, his audience was held in awe of his use of the English language. He spoke brilliantly on writing style and the use of language to describe events and societies. The New York Times reporter, who also interviewed him, described Naipaul as the best writer in the English language.Naipaul’s nearly seven decades of prose (and social science commentaries) is unmatched by writers of his generation. His 30 books, countless essays, dozens of stories, and several commentaries won him international acclaim and fans everywhere. He was a courageous writer and no subject (including practices in several belief systems) was taboo to him. His early writings were simple and comical, but later ones were written in complex prose and considered more serious on issues about society. Although some of the novels may be considered fictional, they described real-life experiences that Naipaul encountered. This helped his writings to be recommended for use in several subjects and to attract millions of readers.He and his wife were also interviewed by the Indian and international media, and he gave several talks in Delhi in addition to the PBD. He subsequently attended another PBD.The world will miss Naipaul’s sharp-tongued, witty commentaries on society. But what he described yesterday about many societies and subjects are still apt today for those societies and the lifestyles he critiqued have not changed much. His death is an incalculable loss for the world for there are few writers of his calibre around.Sincerely,Dr Vishnu Bisramlast_img

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