This is London reports on V. S. Naipaul’s reaction to being honored with a portrait at the National Portrait Gallery.
His suicide attempt as a student at Oxford only failed because he ran out of money for the meter. This week, the triumphant career of the Nobel prizewinner was celebrated with the unveiling of a painting in the National Portrait Gallery. Naipaul, who was knighted for services to literature, was visibly moved as the work, by BP Portrait Award winner Paul Emsley, was shown for the first time.
The work, a BP commission for the gallery, shows Naipaul in his garden in Wiltshire, his eyes part-closed as he sits in contemplation. “I have always needed time to think and this captures that very nicely. I am very honoured to have been singled out to be painted for the gallery,” said the 77-year-old Trinidad-born author.
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Naipaul’s career received a boost this year when he took on a new literary agent, Andrew “The Jackal” Wylie. A lengthy tour of the U.S., with readings and lectures, will take place prior to the publication of his latest book, based on his travels in Africa, in October. The writer will be accompanied by his wife Nadira, the writer and journalist, who has vigorously defended him against personal attacks in a recent biography.
Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery, welcomed Naipaul to the unveiling, saying: “We make very few commissions of portraits of contemporary people and it is essential that they have made a significant contribution to our country. Sir Vidia changed the way we see the world through his writing.”
Naipaul said: “It has been a long and at times very difficult journey to succeed as a writer in this country, but it is the only journey I felt I could make and I am glad to keep on looking and learning and writing.”