If the measure of a writer’s success is the ire he provokes, then V. S. Naipaul is a spectacular success in Trinidad. In this island nation of just over a million people, there is a widespread perception that he has jilted his homeland through unflattering portraits in his books and a string of cutting remarks over the years. “History is built around achievement and creation; and nothing was created in the West Indies,” Naipaul wrote in “The Middle Passage” (1962) — the first sign that he wasn’t going to play the proud native son.
A fresher wound came in 2001, when Naipaul omitted any mention of Trinidad from his initial press release after winning the Nobel Prize, which many here saw as a deliberate rebuff. And last year, during a visit sponsored by the University of the West Indies, Naipaul more than lived up to his reputation for cantankerousness, prompting disapproving press coverage after he snapped at a group of students at a Hindu girls’ high school.
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