Shahidha Bari, Professor at the University of the Arts London, asks if we should stop reading controversial writer Sir VS Naipaul. Is his legacy compromised by his confessions of violence towards women and his controversial views on race?
Sir VS Naipaul, who died in 2018, is arguably one of the most important British writers of the 20th century. Part of a vanguard of postcolonial authors who wrote about the new world being created in the wake of the British Empire, Naipaul’s work was applauded across the globe. He won the Booker Prize for his novel, In a Free State, as well as in 2001 the Nobel Prize for Literature for his body of work as a whole, including his non-fiction publications documenting his various travels through Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America.
Bari meets those who claim Naipaul’s views, today, are difficult to accept – steeped in a colonial mindset that has little resonance in the 21st century. And she talks to others who feel that Naipaul’s outspoken views are an essential part of the package and that he still belongs in the canon of great literature.
In Trinidad, Bari learns of the abuse Naipaul suffered as a child and how it affected his relationship with the country of his birth and his work.
Naipaul was the author of more than 40 books and wrote fiction and non-fiction with equal success. His best-known works are the novels A House for Mr Biswas, A Bend in the River and In a Free State.