Savi Naipaul Akal: her side of the story


The latest issue of Caribbean Beat, Issue 153 (September/October 2018) is out. In this issue,
Ingrid Persaud explores a new memoir by Savi Naipaul Akal—The Naipauls of Nepaul Street: A Memoir of Life in Trinidad and Beyond (Peepal Tree Press, 2018). Persaud writes, “They’re the Caribbean’s great literary dynasty, but for decades their story has been written only by the Naipaul men, [Savi Naipaul Akal] tells another side of the tale.” Persaud writes:

Savi Naipaul Akal exudes poise and presence. And charm. Buckets of charm. For our interview at her home in Valsayn, east of Port of Spain, she leads me to a table covered with a crisp white tablecloth weighed down by homemade cakes and finger sandwiches. The huge floral arrangement sitting in the middle stems from her own garden.

I am here to find out what motivated her to trade the ease of her twilight years for the graft of writing her recently published memoir, The Naipauls of Nepaul Street, launched in April 2018 at the NGC Bocas Lit Fest.

Akal offers a selection of teas from her family’s own luxury brand. I decide on the evocatively named Tobago Afternoon blend. As she pours, Akal remarks that although she knew the story of her parents, Ma and Pa, deserved to be written, she never imagined it would be by her pen. Writing was the purview of the Naipaul men — starting with her father, Seepersad Naipaul, and her brothers Shiva, who died young, and of course the Nobel laureate, Vidia — known to the world as V.S.

If any of the five Naipaul sisters were to write the family history, then Kamla, the eldest, once seemed the most likely. Indeed, Savi halted work on an earlier draft of her book because Kamla had declared her intention to undertake a similar project. Despite their differences, Savi graciously gave way to her sister, reasoning that Kamla had eight years more information and perspective on their shared history — and, as first born, was entitled to a certain deference. But Kamla passed away in 2009 without publishing a text.

With Kamla gone, and Vidia now aged and incapacitated, it was Akal’s moment. The stories begged to move from her mind and become words on a page. [. . .]


For more on Savi Naipaul Akal’s The Naipauls of Nepaul Street: A Memoir of Life in Trinidad and Beyond, see

[Photo of Savi Naipaul Akal by Mark Lyndersay.]

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