Shiva Naipaul (1945-1985) was the younger brother of V.S, Naipaul and the second son of that anguished man and ground-breaking writer Seepersad Naipaul. Shiva died in the middle of his last book which was published a year after his death under the title An Unfinished Journey.
His first two novels (Fireflies and The Chip-Chip Gatherers) are set in Trinidad and, already in the second book, the differences between himself and his older brother are obvious to any reader. Shiva grew up in a house of women and he had a deep understanding of their silence and a pained consciousness of how mentally and physically circumscribed they were by their time and the men who ruled them. No critic has ever judged him to be a misogynist.
After two ‘travel’ books North of South: An African Journey and Black and White a penetrating political journey through a new world tragedy (the Jonestown catastrophe in which he implicates Guyana and America) Shiva returned to the novel form, to write A Hot Country a frightening book set in Guyana that makes you question the foundation and the meaning of your life.
The comic sense that is not absent from the novels shines in the short stories collected with a number of ‘pieces’ in Beyond the Dragon’s Mouth . Included here is the moving essay about the shaping of his early life which gives the book its title.
Shiva Naipaul’s death at the early age of 40 deprived the country and the world of an author who was getting better and better at his craft. He has a painful understanding of the way of the world. He is unflinchingly relentless in describing the landscape of suffering in which his characters vainly toil. He is self-torturingly adept at arriving at the psychological knots in which his characters are tangling and snuffing out themselves. He immerses himself in the destructive element. He never places himself at a denying distance from his creations.