That V. S. Naipaul is a controversial author and intellectual is nothing new. Sometimes, though, I wonder what he thinks it will accomplish making everyone upset as if just for the sake of it. Has he honestly never enjoyed a line of what Derek Walcott has written? And Jane Austen, is it really so that he “couldn’t possibly share her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world”, like he said in the talk at the Royal Geographic Society on Tuesday? Well, that would be a shame.
Still, I am a big enthusiast of him as a writer, and I strongly recommend you all to read these articles from The Guardian (by Amy Fallon and Alison Flood respectively) on the topic of his latest dispute:
I particularly enjoyed Diana Athill’s remark (she had her entire writing dismissed as “feminist tosh” by Naipaul) that when she needed cheering up, she used to say to herself “at least I’m not married to Vidia”. Not kind, perhaps, but Naipaul isn’t the only one with a sharp tongue.
Regardless of these latest remarks, perhaps forced out of Naipaul by a journalist asking a writer famous for his strong views and stubbornness something as simple as “So, Sir Vidiadhar, do you think Jane Austen is your equal among female writers?”, I think it is pivotal that we remember what he is actually famous for; being one of the best handlers of English prose today. That, no reporter can take away.