A TRIBUTE by Sally Rampersad Radford
The late Mrs Pat Naipaul taught me Latin while her husband was writing THE MIDDLE PASSAGE. Gaining a distinction in the Cambridge School Certificate and winning the governor's Jerningham SIlver Medal, I was able to apply Latin to my work in paleontology in the petroleum industry.
Here is my tribute to the Mahatma of the West Indies, departing for his heavenly abode.
The descendant of Brahmins was born in the ancestral stronghold of his aristocratic Capildeo clan, Anand Bhavan, an Indo-Aryan jewel, the only example of Gupta architecture of AD 5 in the Americas. Given a lyrical Brahmin name, Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul excelled in Queen's Royal College, another imperial gem resembling a Rajasthan palace. Buoyed by a state scholarship, he entered the city of dreaming spires to study English Literature at University College Oxford in 1950, as Europe recovered from World War II.
Eschewing return to his creole birthplace, Vidia published over 30 books in Britain. Like most of the Indo-Caucasian indentured immigrants in the wake of Queen Isabella's ships , he became a true child of West India and West Indians salute him as our own Mahatma, if not Messiah.
Outspoken and incisive, he was knighted in 1990, inspiring numerous writers including women.
In 2001 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, a medal and fund worthy of the controversial philosopher, who began his acceptance speech thus-
"I have given readings and not lectures. I have told people who ask for lectures that I have no lecture to give. And that is true. It might seem strange that a man who has dealt in words and emotions and ideas for nearly fifty years shouldn’t have a few to spare, so to speak. But everything of value about me is in my books. Whatever extra there is in me at any given moment isn’t fully formed. I am hardly aware of it; it awaits the next book. It will – with luck – come to me during the actual writing, and it will take me by surprise ..."
As his Hindu compatriots reel from existential threats, may he rest in well-deserved Nirvana.
His works are listed below-
- The Mystic Masseur (1957) – film version: The Mystic Masseur (2001)
- The Suffrage of Elvira (1958)
- Miguel Street (1959)
- A House for Mr Biswas (1961)
- Mr Stone and the Knights Companion (1963)
- The Mimic Men (1967)
- A Flag on the Island (1967)
- In a Free State (1971) – Booker Prize Winner
- Guerrillas (1975)
- A Bend in the River (1979)
- The Enigma of Arrival (1987)
- A Way in the World (1994)
- Half a Life (2001)
- The Nightwatchman's Occurrence Book: And Other Comic Inventions (Stories) (2002: collection comprising The Suffrage of Elvira, Mr Stone and the Knights Companion and A Flag on the Island)
- Magic Seeds (2004)
- The Middle Passage: Impressions of Five Societies – British, French and Dutch in the West Indies and South America (1962)
- An Area of Darkness (1964)
- The Loss of El Dorado (1969)
- The Overcrowded Barracoon and Other Articles (1972)
- India: A Wounded Civilization (1977)
- A Congo Diary (1980), published by Sylvester & Orphanos
- The Return of Eva Perón and the Killings in Trinidad (1980)
- Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey (1981)
- Finding the Centre: Two Narratives (1984)
- A Turn in the South (1989)
- India: A Million Mutinies Now (1990)
- Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions among the Converted Peoples (1998)
- Between Father and Son: Family Letters (1999, edited by Gillon Aitken)
- The Writer and the World: Essays (2002)
- A Writer's People: Ways of Looking and Feeling (2007)
- The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief (2010)