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V sec. Naipaul, a writer of many contradictions and obvious size



He was abhorred by third-world intellectuals and named, inter alia, a "reviver of the comforting myths of the white race" (Chinua Achebe), "a despicable lackey of neo-colonialism" (HB Singh), and a "cold and taunting prophet" ( Eric Roach).

He made enemies as easy as sipping tea. He said, "I read a piece of scripture and within a paragraph or two, I know whether it's from a woman or not." I think [it is] unequal to me. "He physically abused Margaret Murray, his longtime mistress. He spoke openly about aversion to overweight people and visits to prostitutes. A bindi on the forehead of a woman means, he said, "My head is empty."

He had so many fervent defenders. Ian Buruma, editor of the New York Review of Books, found it a mistake to see Naipaul as "a dark man who mimics the prejudices of the white imperialists." He wrote: "This view is not only superficial, but false: Naipaul's anger is not the result of being unable to feel the natives' situation, on the contrary, he is furious because he feels it so keenly."

At best, Naipaul's work made these issues almost controversial. He was a self-proclaimed heir of Joseph Conrad and a legitimate. "That's what I would demand of the writer," he once said. "How much of the modern world contains his work?" Naipaul's work contained a multitude of subtle and intersecting meanings, seldom sledgehammer. It is the subject of an excellent biography, "The World Is What It Is" (2008) by Patrick French – a good starting point, along with "A House for Mr. Biswas" for those interested in Naipaul's work. [196592002] Naipaul was a difficult man. He cultivated a touch of arrogance. He treated the interviewers the way cats treat mice, condescending them and, in his opinion, bringing down naïve and ridiculous questions. But those who knew him also spoke of his personal warmth.

One example is enough. In her new memoir, "A Life of My Own," English biographer Claire Tomalin writes that she became ill at lunch with Naipaul in the early 1980s. He rescinded their two orders and asked for a pot of tea and a pitcher of hot milk, which they shared before suggesting a relaxing walk along the river. "I decided that Vidia was not just one of the great writers of his generation," she wrote, "he was also the friendliest of men."

Naipaul overcame much, including years of neglect, before he made it as a writer. He had determination and a sense of destiny. "I knew the door I wanted," he wrote. "I knocked."


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