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VS Naipaul

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The Caustic Chronicler

The critic James Wood once said that Sir VS Naipaul has two voices: a saxophone and an oboe — a hard sound and a softer one. These two sides could be called the Wounder and the Wounded. The Wounder is by now well known—the source of fascinated hatred in the literary world and postcolonial academic studies. The aura of the Wounder — his ability to shatter half-baked thinking and mealy-mouthed tendency to political correctness —- has often eclipsed the writer who has been described as the master of modern English prose. Naipaul is the author of 15 formidable novels from his 1961 masterpiece A House for Mr Biswas to 2001’s Half a Life. He has also written over a dozen important works of travel writing and essays including his newest book The Masque of Africa. He has been awarded numerous literary prizes including the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize (1958), the Somerset Maugham Award (1960), the Hawthornden Prize (1964), the Booker Prize (1971), the Jerusalem Prize (1983) and the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime’s achievement in British Literature (1993). In 2001, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Naipaul has generations of admirers, who beyond the nuts and bolts of writing, admire him for the worldview that Joan Didion described as ‘a sense of a world as a physical fact without regret or hope, a place of intense radiance in which ideas may be fevers that pass’.

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