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UK writer Naipaul wins Nobel award

Naipaul, 69, was commended for his
Naipaul, 69, was commended for his "incorruptible scrutiny"  

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (CNN) -- Trinidad-born British writer V.S. Naipaul has won the Nobel Prize in literature.

He won the $1 million prize on Thursday for combining existing genres into a style of his own in works that compel readers "to see the presence of suppressed histories," the academy said in its citation.

"In a vigilant style," the Swedish Academy said, Naipaul "transforms rage into precision and allows events to speak with their own inherent irony."

Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul was born in 1932, near Port of Spain in Trinidad, in a family descended from Hindu immigrants from northern India. His grandfather worked in a sugar cane plantation and his father was a journalist and writer.

He went to England at the age of 18 to study at Oxford University, and has lived in England since then, devoting himself to writing.

The fodder for his novels, short stories, travel books and documentary works cover many themes and places. He has written about people and places in England, Trinidad, India, Africa, America, and the Islamic countries of Asia.

"Naipaul is (Joseph) Conrad's heir as the annalist of the destinies of empires in the moral sense: what they do to human beings. His authority as a narrator is grounded in his memory of what others have forgotten, the history of the vanquished," the academy said on Thursday.

The Swedish Academy singled out the 1987 work The Enigma of Arrival.

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"In his masterpiece," the academy said, Naipaul visit the reality of England like an anthropologist studying some hitherto unexplored native tribe deep in the jungle.

"With apparently short-sighted and random observations, he creates an unrelenting image of the placid collapse of the old colonial ruling culture and the demise of European neighbourhoods.

Other works include The Mystic Masseur (1957), his first work, a novel; Miguel Street (1959), short stories establishing Naipaul as a humourist; A House for Mr. Biswas (1961), a novel in which the protagonist is modelled on the author's father; The Loss of El Dorado (1969), a colonial history of Trinidad; and Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions among the Converted Peoples (1998), a description of the eastern regions of the Islamic world.

"He is to a very high degree a cosmopolitan writer, a fact that he himself considers to stem from his lack of roots: he is unhappy about the cultural and spiritual poverty of Trinidad, he feels alienated from India, and in England he is incapable of relating to and identifying with the traditional values of what was once a colonial power," the academy said.

Naipaul's views on religion have raised some eyebrows. "If you follow the whole oeuvre of Naipaul, he is very critical of all religions," Academy board member Per Wastberg told Reuters.

"He considers religion as the scourge of humanity, which dampens down our fantasies and our lust to think and experiment."

On Wednesday two Americans and Japanese scientist who worked on research for new drugs won the 2001 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

William Knowles, K. Barry Sharpless and Ryoji Noyori worked on projects to improve control of chemical reactions, helping development of heart drugs and a treatment for Parkinson's disease.

On Tuesday, Americans Eric A. Cornell and Carl E. Wieman and German-born Wolfgang won the physics award for discovering a new state of matter that could lead to super-small machines.

All Nobel prizes will be presented on December 10, the anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel death in 1896.

Nobel, a Swedish industrialist who invented dynamite, asked in his will for the awards to be set up to honour work that benefits mankind. They began 100 years ago.


• Nobel e-Museum

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