Novelist Shiva Naipaul Dies at Age 40 : Wrote Reconstruction of Mass Suicide at Jonestown in Guyana

From Times Wire Services

Novelist and journalist Shiva Naipaul, who won acclaim for his woeful stories of life in the Third World, has died at his north London home, his family said. He was 40.

Naipaul, the younger brother of the better-known writer, Vidiadhar S. Naipaul, died Aug. 13 of a heart attack.

Among Shiva Naipaul’s best-known books was “Journey to Nowhere: A New World Tragedy,” published in 1980, which reconstructed the 1978 mass suicide in Guyana of more than 900 members of the Peoples Temple sect from California.

The London Daily Telegraph called him “one of the most talented and wide-ranging writers of his generation.”


Born in Trinidad

Like his 53-year-old brother, Shiva Naipaul was born in Trinidad and educated at Queen’s Royal College in Trinidad and at Oxford University in England.

The brothers were among seven children in a family descended from indentured laborers from India.

Shiva Naipaul’s first novel, “Fireflies,” about life in Trinidad, was published in 1971 and won three British literary awards.


He followed with “The Chip-Chip Gatherers,” published in 1973, “North of South: An African Journey, 1978,” a work of nonfiction in which he accused the governments of Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania of exploiting their own people, and “Love and Death in a Hot Country,” 1983.

Times Reviewer

Los Angeles Times reviewer Charles Champlin found “Love and Death,” a fictional account of an emerging South African coastal nation, “a despairing tract, bleak, fully captured and persuasive, on the high cost of history.”

“Beyond the Dragon’s Mouth,” a collection of his shorter works, was published last year.


Naipaul also wrote for London’s Sunday Telegraph. When he died, he was working on a book about Australia. On a recent visit there he reportedly upset Australian officials with his forthright comments on the treatment of the Aborigines.

He is survived by his wife, Virginia Margaret Stuart, and a son.