Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Nasty Naipaul

You might remember Paul Theroux's Sir Vidia's Shadow, the novelist and travel writer's memoir of his 30 year (somewhat troubled) relationship with the author V.S. Naipaul, who was once his mentor and friend.

Now in the Times, Theroux responds to a new biography which he sees as complete vindication for his own harsh treatment of Sir Vidia between the pages. Describing Naipaul as :
... a grouch, a skinflint, tantrum-prone, with race on the brain. He was then, and continued to be, an excellent candidate for anger management classes, sensitivity training, psychotherapy, marriage guidance, grief counselling and driving lessons – none of which he pursued.
reading Patrick French’s authorised (!) biography, The World Is What It Is, he finds that he didn't know :
... the half of all the horrors. ... Now French’s biography amply demonstrates everything I said and more. It is not a pretty story; it will probably destroy Naipaul’s reputation for ever, this chronicle of his pretensions, his whoremongering, his treatment of a sad, sick wife and disposable mistress, his evasions, his meanness, his cruelty amounting to sadism, his race baiting. Then there is the “gruesome sex”, the blame shifting, the paranoia, the disloyalty, the nasty cracks and the whining, the ingratitude, the mood swings, the unloving and destructive personality.
Sounds completely unmissable actually!

(Thanks Jordan for the link.)

7 comments:

rajan said...

Am not sure about the other aspects of his character, but a strong revulsion for blacks and dark skinned runs through his narratives..

If I am not mistaken, in "Bend in the River" his protoganist Salim spits at a black woman after making love to her..ostensibly angry at himself for having being aroused by an inferior woman. Naipaul amplifies this theme in a short-story written for the New Yorker two years ago.

Remember what someone said- Derek Walcott?, if Naipaul had written about Jews the way he did on blacks, what sort of literary career - not to mention the awards, Nobel- he would have had?

Rajan

Anonymous said...

You're right, Sharon, makes me want to read it immediately! Even if I've never read any of Naipaul's books. It's a naipaul-ling admission!

-Poppadumdum

Anonymous said...

Sharon, there's an excellent article in the NST today by Magnus Linklater, headlined: "An egomaniac but an honest one". It is a must read for those like Paul Theroux who confuse Naipaul the 'hateful' man as may be with Naipaul the writer.It is riveting reading as the authorised biography must surely be. Authorised! Just imagine, he enabled complete independence to the writer, allowed everything to be revealed, ugly, unsavoury warts and all. That says volumes for his honesty. The article concludes and most writers will concur:"Naipaul has demonstrated that in the end the truth is more important than the image. And that is the emblem of a great writer". Paul Theroux, are you listening?

saras

Ruhayat said...

Well, Paul. Why don't you REALLY tell us how you feel.

There's nothing like being dumped by the object of your affection, is there. I never liked Naipaul personally, anyway; his racism frequently gets in the way of a good read.

Anonymous said...

He's well-read enough to be V.S. Naipaul and not V.S. who ? so I guess he must have done something right. And yea, I suppose he's honest if nothing else.

bibliobibuli said...

saras - the article bu linklater appeared in the times first and here's the link

and quite right, an author stands or falls by the books he produces, not by the kind of person he is.

(as any reader of this blog knows and i'm a very big fan of burgess but i wonder if i'd actually have liked the guy if i'd known him?)

haven't read much naipaul, but thought "a bend in the river" excellent and remember much about it though i read it ... oooh let's see 22 years ago, while i was living in africa.

but don't be too hard on theroux, saras, without reading his book. to have thought naipaul a friend and then been disillutioned ... well that hurts. and theroux's writing is pretty good too!

but i enjoyed the bloodletting of theroux's article. ins't bitchiness fun?

Anonymous said...

Paul Theroux is a fraud! He implies in his writing that Naipaul is a miser! Well you always see Naipaul inviting him and his wife to dinner even when he was a living in Wiltshire, struggling in a sense, because his books/writing were not widely acclaimed. I ask, did you see Paul T. inviting Naipaul to his residence for dinner at anytime in his writing? He tried to damage Naipaul!