This article by Michelle Loubon appeared in Trinidad’s Express.
Trinidad and Tobago’s literary icon VS Naipaul, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 2001, is renowned for the novel A House For Mr Biswas. The famous house is located at 26 Nepaul Street, St James. Naipaul lived there from 1946 until 1950 before emigrating to Oxford, England. He now resides there.
Apart from Naipaul, his parents Seepersad (writer) and Droapatie Naipaul shared the home with his brother and fellow writer Shiva.
The unveiling of a commemorative plaque with the inscription “The Biswas House: Family Home of Seepersad and Droapatie Naipaul” took place at 26 Nepaul Street, St James, yesterday.
Attending were Minister of National Diversity and Social Integration Rodger Samuel, who gave the feature address, Planning and Sustainable Development Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie, and chairman of the Friends of Mr Biswas, Prof Kenneth Ramchand. They were joined by Savi Akal, sister of VS Naipaul, and her son Kiran Shiva Akal.
Samuel said, “Naipaul House is a national treasure. It has a rich history. It is about heritage and legacy. Legacy from father to children, legacy of creativity, legacy of potential and wanting better for you and your future generations.”
He called upon citizens to develop a sense of patriotism and exercise responsibility as “keepers of the national heritage”.
“When we have pride we will fight to protect our heritage, reminders of the past, tales of our history and generations of tomorrow. Heritage included language, customs, places and moveable collections,” said Samuel.
Samuel gave the assurance Naipaul House will be “listed” as a heritage site by the National Trust which is led by interim chairman Dr Kumar Mahabir.
Ramchand said, “Remarkably for our culture we are in a monumental way acknowledging literature and writing. Whatever we do with the Naipaul House, it must take shape and colour from literature and the literary arts that the house generated and that made the house iconic.”
He also said Naipaul House was a living museum. “During our watch, the house shall not fall. And it will not fall because it will be the centre from which we seek to nurture literature and the literary arts,” said Ramchand.
Tewarie said the event was a “wonderful celebration of a couple in a challenging time and complex society. Naipaul gave the world so much in terms of literature and immortalised his entire family. They were ordinary people with extraordinary ideas.”
Asked about Naipaul’s response to the family home being converted into a museum, Akal said: “He was always supportive. In the initial circumstances he knew we (Naipaul family and Trinidad and Tobago) were going to do something with the house. He is not very well. He is immobile. In the earlier days, he thought it would have been a good idea.”
His sister Savi Akal said: “He does not come to the phone. We don’t communicate much. He is 82. It was always a happy and pretty home. The shock came when my father (Seepersad) died at 47.”
Her son said Savi last saw Naipaul in India in 2011.
After the formalities, everyone toured the home admiring family photographs, antique furniture including a rocking chair, cabinet, hutch and original Morris chairs. A shelf beneath the staircase was stacked with a collection of dusty books including poet John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Naipaul’s classics including Miguel Street were not spotted.
Kiran Akal said, “The dining table is original. It is the table upon which they studied for their A’ levels when they were growing up. In a way the house remains alive.”
Last year, The Friends of Mr Biswas, in association with Nalis and the Ministry of National Diversity and Social Integration, hosted the launch of The Naipaul House Literary Museum, at Nalis, Hart and Abercromby Streets, Port of Spain.
For the original report go to http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/Naipaul-House-to-become-heritage-site-244805811.html