Sunday, June 01, 2008

No More Great Writers?

Publishing has gone down in quality so much in recent years and the problem is that there is no literary life any more because there are quite simply no more great writers ...
so said Sir V.S. Naipaul at the Hay festival.

Does he include himself in that analysis, I wonder?

Postscript (2/6/08) :

It really is hate Naipaul season! St. Lucia poet Derek Walcott has :
... reignited a simmering row with VS Naipaul by unveiling a stinging attack on the author - in verse. ...
according to Daniel Trilling in The Guardian. You can read an extract from The Mongoose here.


animah said...

He's humble.
He's taken his hat off.

Greenbottle said...

recently finished sir vidia's shadow by paul theroux about his friendship (gone wrong) with sir vidia. and it took theroux all the 300+ pages to tell us that naipul looked down just about any 'big' writers dead or alive & how conceited and (much more) this writer is. but despite myself (or probably because of it) i actually find him a very interesting guy...

i suppose he can say anything now that he had won just about every literary awards around...

asiansinema said...

Sharon, thanks for the pointer: Walcott's poem is not just funny its pretty good one too.

After being at receiving end of Naipaul's disparagement (and who hasn't been) for so long, Walcott is striking back.

What puzzles me is why another group he has so often dismissed, Indian writers, haven't responded?

This is what Naipaul says about them, from a review of his latest book by Joseph Lelyveld, former editor of New York times.
In a similar vein, in the space of a few sentences, Naipaul dismisses a whole generation of Indian novelists writing in English as belonging "more to the publishing culture of Britain and the United States" than to India, each turning out a fictionalized account of his or her extended family "with great characters, daddyji and mamaji and nanee and chacha" (the latter two meaning maternal grandmother and father's younger brother)—all according to the narrative prescriptions of the despised writing schools.

It's not difficult to think of Indian novels that might be covered by this blanket indictment. "The books are published by people outside, judged by people outside, and to a large extent bought by people outside," he writes, meaning outside India.

Is that any way to shape a national literature? he asks. It's hard to tell whether this indictment is meant to include the Salman Rushdie of Midnight's Children, the Anita Desai of Baumgartner's Bombay, or the Rohinton Mistry of A Fine Balance, arguably the most searing work of fiction independent India has produced in English.

Naipaul doesn't stoop from the pinnacle he has achieved to mention such obvious names, or any names. It's as if the whole generation is beneath his notice.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit I always admire a professional curmudgeon. The best bit is where he goes on to say that everyone at the Hay Festival is ugly. Ha ha ha! It's practically Monty Python. Your father was a hamster and your mother smelled of elderberries! You can't argue against stuff like this -- if he thinks there are no more great writers, well, that's what he thinks, and it's all subjective, innit -- so why not just laugh?

-- Preeta

bibliobibuli said...

but what's a litfest without at least one loose canon. i bet that's why he was invited.

kamal s said...

Naipaul and Eco friends forever! Can't wait for Mailer to join this threesome.....oh, wait, he's dead!

Anonymous said...

But Sharon, I think the kicker is that he *wasn't* invited! See:

"A spokeswoman from the festival said that Naipaul had not made an appearance at Hay in any official capacity."

He's just standing in the sidelines, muttering bitterly to anyone who will listen. Which is even funnier. Or sadder. Depending on how you look at it.

-- P