Name at birth: Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul
Sir V. S. Naipaul is an essayist and novelist who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2001. Trinidadian by birth, Indian by descent and British by choice, Naipaul began his career in the 1950s. He built a reputation as a skilled writer on the strength of early novels, including The Mystic Masseur (1957), A House for Mr. Biswas (1961) and In a Free State (1971, Booker Prize). During the 1960s and '70s he stirred controversy for his essays and books on post-colonial cultures in the Caribbean, Africa and India. Supporters say he is unsentimental, while critics call him insensitive, if not worse. A world traveler based in England, during the 1980s he began writing about Islamic fundamentalism and has since become known as a harsh critic of its culture. Political controversies aside, Naipaul is recognized as one of England's best living writers, knighted in 1990 and awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 2001. His other works include the novels The Enigma of Arrival (1987), A Way in the World (1994) Half a Life (2001) and Magic Seeds (2003); a non-fiction account of his travels through the Caribbean, The Middle Passage (1962); his exploration of his relationship with India, An Area of Darkness (1964); his novel set in Africa, A Bend in the River (1979); and his controversial books about travels in the Islamic world, Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey (1981) and Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples (1998).