Shiva Naipaul 1945–
Trinidadian novelist and nonfiction writer.
Naipaul once described his life as "defined by three poles that don't meet." A Hindu of Indian descent, he was born and raised in the West Indies island nation of Trinidad and settled in England at the age of nineteen. The central concerns of his works are the social and political conditions in Third World countries. Naipaul portrays "a world where feeling has gone dead from despair and helplessness," according to Peter Levi. Problems of individual and cultural identity are recurrent themes in Naipaul's novels. Critics note many similarities between Shiva Naipaul's thematic concerns and attitudes and those of his brother, the novelist V. S. Naipaul.
Naipaul's first two novels, Fireflies (1970) and The Chip-Chip Gatherers (1973), are family sagas set in Trinidad, and each explores a society in transition. The old order is represented in Fireflies by the declining Khoja dynasty, while the new is represented in The Chip-Chip Gatherers by the Ramsarans, a poor family trying to break into the middle class. Naipaul ironically presents the failings of both elements of society, especially in the latter novel.
After the publication of The Chip-Chip Gatherers, Naipaul took a ten-year break from writing fiction, during which he traveled and wrote two nonfiction books. North of South (1978) is a combination travelogue and political essay focusing on race relations in Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia. Black and White (1980), an interpretive study of the mass suicide of members of the Reverend Jim Jones's People's Temple in Guyana in 1978, explores the social and political conditions which promoted the tragic event.
Naipaul said in an interview that he regards his fiction and nonfiction as one body of work because his nonfiction research has yielded experiences and information that he has developed in his novels. His recent novel, A Hot Country (1983), is evidence of this, for it is set in the fictional, politically volatile country of Cuyama, a thinly disguised version of Guyana.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 110, 112.)