Shiva Naipaul was the younger brother of novelist V. S. Naipaul. He went first to Queen's Royal College and St Mary's College in Trinidad, then emigrated to Britain, having won a scholarship to study Chinese at University College, Oxford. At Oxford, he met and later married Jenny Stuart, with whom he had a son, Tarun.
With Jenny's support, Shiva Naipaul wrote his first novel, Fireflies (1970), which won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize from the Royal Society of Literature for best regional novel. It was followed by The Chip-Chip Gatherers (1973). He then decided to concentrate on journalism, and wrote two non-fiction works, North of South (1978) and Black & White (1980), before returning to the novel form in the 1980s with A Hot Country (1983), a departure from his two earlier comic novels set in Trinidad, as well as a collection of fiction and non-fiction, Beyond the Dragon's Mouth: Stories and Pieces (1984). Both his fiction and nonfiction were characterized by a starkly pessimistic view of Commonwealth societies that attacked the post-imperial native hierarchies for their crassness and mimicry of the West, and in turn the banality and diffidence of Western liberalism.
On the morning of 13 August 1985, at the age of 40, Naipaul had a fatal heart attack while working at his desk. The Spectator magazine, for which his wife Jenny had worked as a secretary, and which had published many of his articles, established the Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize.
In Paul Theroux's Sir Vidia's Shadow, a memoir of Shiva's older brother, V. S. Naipaul, Theroux described Shiva as a "sot", shrunken by the towering figure of his famous brother, with a penchant for drunken partying and a need to have his meals made for him. Theroux also took issue with Shiva's skills as a writer, particularly as a travel writer. Recently, Sir Vidia's Shadow has come under attack for its demonstrable inaccuracies.
A radically more positive appreciation of Shiva Naipaul by the journalist Geoffrey Wheatcroft in The Spectator is backed up by the novelist Martin Amis, who wrote that "Shiva Naipaul was one of those people who caused your heart to lift when he entered the room...in losing him, we have lost thirty years of untranscribed, unvarnished genius".
- Fireflies (1970)
- The Chip-Chip Gatherers (1973)
- North of South (1978)
- Black & White (1980), published in the U.S. as Journey to Nowhere
- A Hot Country (1983), published in the U.S. as "Love and Death in a Hot Country"
- Beyond the Dragon's Mouth: Stories and Pieces (1984)
- An Unfinished Journey (1986).
- A Man of Mystery and Other Stories (1995), a selection of stories taken from Beyond the Dragon's Mouth.
- Geoffrey Wheatcroft, "Sardonic Genius - Geoffrey Wheatcroft recalls his friendship with the writer Shiva Naipaul, who died 20 years ago", The Spectator, 13 August 2005.
- The visit | The Spectator
- Patrick French's biography of VS Naipaul: Naipaul's friendship with Paul Theroux - Telegraph
- Martin Amis, New Statesman, April 1973, "Black and White" by Shiva Naipaul, reprinted in The War Against Cliché: Essays and Reviews, 1971-2000.
- Matthew Craft, "A Critical Take On Cliche", Hartford Courant, November 16, 2001.
- BBC iPlayer - Arena: The Strange Luck of V.S. Naipaul