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Nobel prize-winning author V S Naipaul dies in London

Press Trust of India  |  London 

V S Naipaul, the Trinidad-born Indian-origin known for his critical commentary on colonialism, religion and politics, has died at the age of 85, his family said today.

"He was a giant in all that he achieved and he died surrounded by those he loved having lived a life which was full of wonderful creativity and endeavour," his wife Lady said in a statement on the death of the Nobel

Naipaul, who lived most of his life in England, died in his home yesterday.

was born on August 17, 1932 in into an Indian Hindu family.

He grew up in relative poverty before moving to England aged 18 after receiving a scholarship to University College, Oxford. He wrote his first novel while at but it was not published and he battled with depression, even attempting suicide, during his struggling student days.

He left university in 1954 and found a job as a cataloguer in He subsequently settled in England, although he travelled extensively thereafter.

Naipaul wrote more than 30 books of fiction and nonfiction during his career with a sharp critique of established religion and politicians characterising much of his work.

His first book 'The Mystic Masseur' was published in 1951, launching his literary career. His most celebrated novel, A House for Mr Biswas, was published in 1961. The book was based on the life of his father Seepersad Naipaul, who was a for the 'Guardian'.

Naipaul went on to become one of the early winners of the for 'In A Free State' in 1971. Among his other well-known works were those on Islamic fundamentalism - the 1981 work 'Among The Believers' and the 1998 book 'Beyond Belief'.

His other works include Guerrillas (1975), A Bend in the River (1979), A Way in (1994), (1967), The Enigma of Arrival (1987), Half a Life (2001), The and (2002) and Literary Occasions (2003), The novel Magic Seeds (2004) - a sequel to Half a Life - and In The Masque of (2010).

Naipaul, known as a master of the English language, explored colonialism in his many famous works.

He received numerous honours, including a knighthood by for his services to in 1990.

The British was awarded the Nobel Prize for in 2001 "for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories".

He married in 1955. After her death in 1996, Naipaul married divorced Pakistani Nadira Khannum Alvi, many years his junior.

The outspoken was known for his many harsh criticisms, including that of former British who he described as a "pirate" - as well as literary stalwarts such as and EM Forster.

He also fell out with American travel Paul Theroux, who he had mentored, in a bitter 15-year feud after Theroux discovered a book he had given Naipaul in a second-hand bookshop. They later reunited.

Paying tribute to his friend, who he said had been in poor health, Theroux said: "He also never wrote falsely. He was a scourge of anyone who used a clich or an un-thought out sentence. He was very scrupulous about his writing, very severe, too."

He "will go down as one of the greatest writers of our time," Theroux said.

Booker Prize-winning Indian-origin Salman Rushdie, who had clashed with Naipaul over the years, also paid tribute on

"We disagreed all our lives, about politics, about literature, and I feel as sad as if I just lost a beloved older brother. RIP Vidia," he said.

His feud with Rushdie dated back to when The Satanic Verses' author faced a death sentence.

Naipaul said at the time: "I don't know his books but I've been aware of his statements. I found them usually leftwing and trivial and antiquated." He also seemingly dismissed the fatwa as "an extreme form of literary criticism".

Another Indian-origin English novelist and recalled interviewing him and said: "When we sat down, the first thing he said was 'tell me what you've read and don't lie'. Only then would he consent to be questioned.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, August 12 2018. 19:05 IST