Published: 12th August 2018
Remembering V S Naipaul: Five of his best books and why you should read them
Nobel Prize-winning novelist V S Naipaul died at the age of 85 years. Here's is a list of five books from the author you should read
Nobel Prize-winning novelist V S Naipaul, who was born in Trinidad but lived most of his life in England, died in his London home on Saturday at the age of 85 years. Naipaul won the Booker Prize in 1971, among other literary honours. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1990. Naipaul is known for his critically-acclaimed works throughout his life. Here, we bring you five of his books that one should definitely read.
1. A Bend in the River explores themes of identity and knowledge in post-colonial Africa and tells the tale of a young Afro-Arab man of Indian decent struggling his way through life in an unnamed African country. It opens with the narrator, Salim, travelling from his hometown in East Africa to a market town somewhere in Central Africa, where he wishes to start a new life as the owner of a shop he bought from an acquaintance. The book takes us through the journey of Salim and has been often criticized for its presentation of post-colonial Africa as a place of chaos, violence, and primitivism. However, it was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1979 and is regarded as an extremely well-crafted novel. In 1998, the Modern Library also ranked the book #83 on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.
A bend in the river: This book was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1979
2. Miguel Street is a collection of short stories bound together in one book, although it can't be really called a novel, with this book Naipaul accomplishes a rare feat by tying all the stories under one unifying narrator. Miguel Street is said to be the story of an unnamed narrator, (easily identified as the author himself), and his childhood memories in war-torn Trinidad and Tobago. Miguel Street won the 1961 Somerset Maugham Award. The book is relatively short and is great for a quick read.
3. The Mimic Men was first published in 1967. Naipaul combined elements of both fiction and nonfiction it is considered one of his most serious and poetic novels. Naipaul completed this novel when he was a writer-in-residence at Uganda’s Makerere University. The Mimic Men received overall positive reviews after its publication, although it was controversial for its depiction of West Indians as trying to mimic European behaviour.
The Mimic Men: Naipaul combined elements of both fiction and nonfiction in this book
4. A Way in the World was published in 1994, and although it was marketed as a novel in America, this novel, which consists of linked narratives, is arguably something different. It was regarded as Naipaul's first novel since The Enigma of Arrival in 1987. The book is, in fact, a series of extended essays, meditations and dramatized historical reconstructions and is thus a satisfying read. The book was short-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
5. In a Free State fetched Naipaul the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1971. The plot consists of a framing narrative and a collection of short stories; One out of Many, Tell Me Who to Kill, and the title story, In a Free State. The stories focus on the experiences of uprooted people trying to make their way in different kinds of "free" societies. The theme is not too clearly spelt out. However, there is an important aspect relating to the price of freedom, with analogies between the three situations that makes the book an intriguing read.