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Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,393
Marty Offline OP
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Sir Vidia Naipaul

April 2007 is Naipaul month in Trinidad and Tobago. The
celebration of the 75th birthday of the famous author and
Nobel Laureate Sir Vidia Naipaul, on April 17, 2007 was the
occasion for a grand homecoming with more than a week of
extended activities during which he was honoured in a
number of ways. There was a major academic symposium at
UWI, distinguished lectures, scholarly papers and public
discussions in addition to other events in his honour
during which he autographed books and made lecture tours to
schools. The old Naipaul house in St. James, Port of Spain,
was again brought into focus as the latest of Sir Vidia's
rare visits to his native land received intense media

However, it proved also the occasion for the lively revival
of old quarrels. The minute Sir Vidia and Lady Naipaul
touched down in Trinidad all of the past and present ills
committed by the author were promptly remembered and became
the confetti hurled at him as he landed. For his part,
Naipaul was as gracious, moved and appreciative as he was
unrepentant, caustic and controversial. While the Naipauls
on the one hand, and the West Indians, the Naipaul critics
and the people of Trinidad and Tobago on the other, seemed
engaged in a final act of reconciliation, there was a mild
suggestion that the only place they were ready to bury the
hatchet was in each other's heads.

Two things were clear. The continuing controversy that has
attended, and driven, Naipaul's career from its beginning
50 years ago has no intention of dissipating, and the
landing of the author of The Enigma of Arrival was, as
always, the return of the enigma himself. This arrival was
made into a national event largely by the local media who
showered upon Naipaul all the attention befitting his
deserved celebrity status while reveling in each repartee,
each sortie aimed at each other by man and nation. This
began even before the start of the visit. The novel The
Suffrage of Elvira is being serialised in The Guardian.
Savi Akal (Savi Naipaul) the sister immortalised as Biswas'
daughter and Anand's sister in A House for Mr Biswas was
interviewed in the press. The coolness in her tones was
evident as she no doubt harbours memory of the decades of
attacks against her brother. When the journalists reminded
her that the state was about to heap glory and honour upon
him, she said as far as she knew it was not the nation, but
the university that was responsible for the events.

While she was not wrong since it was indeed the UWI at St.
Augustine that organised the events, it was, inevitably, a
national affair. The university's Department of Liberal
Arts in the Faculty of Humanities and Education was tasked
with the planning of what triggered off other related and
independent activities which continued the ongoing
love-hate attitude of the public. The Naipaul houses
returned to the focus of the spotlight. There are two of
them, the more prominent one at this time is "Naipaul
House" at 26 Nepaul Street, St. James, which was, according
to oral history, built in the 1940s by an electrical
contractor. It was later bought by the family of Seepersaud
Naipaul, who became the third set of people to live there.
It is this building that is fictionalised as the house on
Sikkim Street in A House for Mr Biswas. Many have
erroneously confused it with the home of the narrator of
Miguel Street, but that novel, made up of connected
narratives, is about Luis Street in Woodbrook, another part
of Port of Spain.

The history of this house was the subject of a brief
feature in the Daily Express April 18, 2007 where it was
stated that Savi Naipaul Akal sold it to the state some
time ago. It is now being renovated by a committee called
"Friends of Mr Biswas" headed by Colin Laird and including
Professor Ken Ramchand, a Naipaul scholar formerly of UWI.
From Laird's account the house is being converted to
include a virtual museum (or shrine) and centre for Naipaul
research. The Express reported on a visit to the site which
Naipaul himself could have written. It described work in
progress on the building.

The sounds associated with the sawing of board and
hammering of nails were audible. "I is the caretaker", a
man purporting to be the caretaker shouted out with
authority last Wednesday evening. "They tell me nobody
can't come in here!" he further blurted out.

The other house is less in the limelight at this time, but
its image has been used as a virtual logo during the April
celebrations. It is a much older and more imposing edifice
known as "Lion House", fictionalised as the "Hanouman
House" of the Tulsi household in A House for Mr Biswas and
mentioned by Naipaul in his Nobel Lecture in 2001 as a very
influential place where he lived as a boy. It was the home
of the Capildeo family and still stands silently and
unobtrusively, a solid stone building with its distinctive
architecture in central Chaguanas, a town in Central
Trinidad famous for the Ram-Leela tradition performed in
the villages on its fringes. One of these is Felicity,
glowingly praised in his acceptance Lecture by another
Nobel Laureate, Derek Walcott in 1992.

The very important references to "Lion House" by Naipaul
were made shortly after he had been hailed to the cross yet
again for what he was supposed to have said when he was
announced as the Nobel winner. He was reported as paying
tribute to India, his ancestral land and Britain, his
adopted home with no reference to Trinidad. This was read
as a typical Naipaulian slight of a native land he had
always been ashamed of and has always rejected and put down
in his writings. His Nobel achievement and this reported
statement were catalysts for renewed attacks upon the
author of the notorious Middle Passage and the equally
offensive Area of Darkness which had begun around 1960 and
intensified in 1962. Naipaul bashing was again highly
fashionable among those who declared that this ungrateful,
sneering, colonised English knight who felt himself
superior to West Indians was not fit for the Prize. Serious
literary critics had already been taking him on outside
this context.

It all came back as soon as the Naipauls landed at Piarco a
fortnight or so ago. Yet the feelings were mixed as the
heroic welcome of the anti-hero they love to hate took
place in Trinidad. At one of the early functions in his
honour, Sir Vidia was visibly moved close to tears to the
point where he was uncharacteristically lost for words.
Lady Naipaul rose to say Sir Vidia was a bit too emotional
to reply. That was not the first time Nadira had been
called upon to speak on behalf of her husband. When
confronted by journalists on arrival in Trinidad with the
infamous dismissive statement, she explained that they
should blame her for it since it was not spoken by her
husband. When the phone call came about the Nobel Prize,
she explained, V.S.Naipaul was asleep, she answered the
phone and, (perhaps in her excitement and confusion),
forgot to mention Trinidad. The speech was incorrectly
attributed to her husband.

It was surprising that Trinidadians and so many others were
hearing that explanation for the first time because the
story has been in circulation since 2001 when the offence
was committed. The story, then, was that when the phone
rings in the Naipaul home it is usual that Nadira, and not
Vidia, would answer. Moreover, she is known to manage most
of her husband's affairs. On this occasion, however, the
call from Stockholm was not unexpected and she had been
primed about what to say. Unfortunately, she forgot and
said the wrong thing. Another version is that the story
about him being asleep was to cover for the fact that he
specifically did not want to go to the phone, which is not
unlike Naipaul.

Nevertheless, immediately after that public apology or
clarification, the Enigma returned to his old ways of
shocking, caustic remarks and forthright speech, inclined
to offend. He went to speak with sixth formers at a
secondary school and bluntly told them that he had nothing
to say to them by way of advice about how to be a good
writer. They pressed him, one of them protesting that he
was not answering their questions. Naipaul's response was
that the questions were trivial and foolish, and that is
why he does not speak to children.

At a bigger, grander forum where he was addressing adults,
including many scholars at the Evening of Appreciation at
UWI, he was equally cutting. He dismissed a comment
collected from the floor about a change in his writing and
style between his early and later periods as "a superficial
reading" and "a false question; not a good one" since there
was no such change. He gave similar treatment to Steve
Ouditt, one of the Panelists and went on to describe some
Caribbean states as "these small societies without a

Perhaps his most damning pronouncement on that occasion was
aimed at Belize, which he called "a retarded place".
Naipaul declared "you come across absurdities when you
travel" and that was his impression of Belize. He continued
an old theory of his about the virtues of looking to and
trying to encompass a larger world in contrast to a
parochial vision. He found it absurd that people in that
country were being urged to "be Belizian", but "what is the
future in that ?"

One of the Distinguished Lectures on Naipaul as a part of
UWI's programme was delivered by Professor Eddie Baugh on
the subject "The History that had made me": The Making and
Self-making of V.S.Naipaul. Baugh ended with an ironic
retort based on the irremoveable Trinidadian identity of
Naipaul, a writer with a large world view. The theme of the
symposium was 'V.S.Naipaul : Created in the West Indies'
and Baugh related it to Naipaul's statement about "nothing"
being created in the West Indies, pointing out that
"V.S.Naipaul" was substituted for "nothing". You could read
it either way; that Sir Vidia may be dismissed as
miniscule, or that, like Naipaul, much has been achieved
and there is much to celebrate. The latter interpretation
makes more sense.

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,393
Marty Offline OP
OP Offline
from a friend

After V.S. Naipaul made disparaging comments made about

Belizeans, Belizean students at Caribbean University

institutions in T&T, Guyana, Barbados, and Jam are

organizing a book burning event of all of VS Naipaul's

books. More later.

We were forced to read VS Naipaul books in high school in

Belize as far back as 30 years ago at sjc. His big book was

Miguel Street, back then. I wonder what triggered the nasty


Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 3,484
Is he a push start or pull start?

Check out my site:
Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 434
Deffinately PUSH! But be sure to be pointed down hill, in LOWEST gear, and be prepared to push a long time.
You went to SJC Mart?

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,393
Marty Offline OP
OP Offline
Hey Tim!! no a friend sent that to me

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