Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul — Sir Vidia since knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1990 — is known for sharp and stylish books — both fiction and otherwise — set against exotic backdrops. Think A House for Mr. Biswas, In A Free State, The Loss of El Dorardo and so many others.

He is not known for his sunny disposition or for being a barrel of laughs. Even so, an AP item quoting Sir Vidia trashing his alma mater seemed a little cold. Even for him.

“I wanted the time,” Naipaul told The Trinidad Guardian. “I wanted to learn to write, and I began to write in my fifth year away from Trinidad. Oxford didn’t teach me anything, nothing at all.”

Born in Trinidad in 1932, one can’t help but wonder if, without Oxford, Naipaul would have been as accomplished, as ready to take on the world. When Naipaul was awarded the Nobel for literature in 2001, the Swedish academy said that “Naipaul is a modern philosopher, carrying on the tradition that started originally with Lettres persanes and Candide. In a vigilant style, which has been deservedly admired, he transforms rage into precision and allows events to speak with their own inherent irony.”

Can that even happen without Oxford? Or, rather, without the sharpness and balance that a really good post-secondary education can provide? Isn’t that, after all, the purpose of said really good post-secondary education? You don’t go to Oxford — or Harvard or Vassar or Princeton or… — to learn how to conjugate verbs and prevent your participles from dragging on the floor. In fact, going for that purpose is a big, fat waste. Whether you know it or not, you go to learn how to organize your mind, process your thoughts.

Meanwhile, grumpy post-intellectual or not, The India Times today announced that a brace of films about Naipaul’s life will be produced in Trinidad and Tobago where 2007 is Sir Vidia year.

Tewarie said the university recognises this great son of the soil who still captures the minds of those who read his prolific writings. The films would also be a linkage to the 75-year-old author and Trinidad and Tobago.

News Reporter

1 thought on “Sir Vidia’s Oxford Slapdown

  1. When Sir Vidya says that Oxford taught him nothing, thats exactly what he means. He is not suggesting that there was nothing meaningful about his time spent there, just that those stuck up, inbreds existed in stark contrast to his own humble West Indian upbringing. Oxford and Europe in general is full of misinformation that only an outsider such as Naipaul can successfully correct if you take the time to listen.

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