Saturday, August 06, 2005

There's a very interesting

(and surprisingly sympathetic) profile of V. S. Naipaul by Rachel Donadia in the New York Times. Among other interesting insights, the following (and I am STRONGLY reminded of a certain friend of mine...):

In conversation, another dynamic becomes apparent, in which the more dismissive Naipaul is of a writer, the more likely it is that he has engaged deeply with that writer's work. Sitting a few feet away from a bookshelf of French novels, Naipaul called Proust ''tedious,'' ''repetitive,'' ''self-indulgent,'' concerned only with a character's social status. ''What is missing in Proust is this idea of a moral center,'' he said. Naipaul also had little respect for Joyce's ''Ulysses'' -- ''the Irish book,'' he sniffily called it -- and other works ''that have to lean on borrowed stories.'' Lately, he has found Stendhal ''repetitive, tedious, infuriating,'' while ''the greatest disappointment was Flaubert.''


  1. I liked the article, although I find Naipaul to be a frustrating figure in a lot of ways (mostly for his politics; (he is and was a firm supporter of the BJP under AB Vajpayee, who was PM of India just before the current PM Manmohan Singh).


  2. Oh, yeah, the politics are totally impossible--I was actually very surprised that the descriptions of "Beyond Belief" and its ?prequel were so positive, I have only heard anyone rant and rave in horror about them, and my own impression from dipping in was pretty negative as well. But there's no doubt "A House for Mr Biswas" is one of the seriously great novels of the 20th century; and a lot of his others are amazing too, "A Bend in the River" of course but I was actually super-impressed with those more recent strange fictions--was it called "A Way in the World"? And The Enigma of Arrival, too. Interesting cool hybrid fiction-non-fiction stuff. I like some of the other early novels a lot. And Paul Theroux's book about him really made my loyalties towards Naipaul kick in, it was a rather unfortunate book in many respects.

  3. Yeah, the novels can be quite good. I remember reading A House for Mr Biswas freshman year, on my own, in the dentist's office and trying to do it while he cleaned my teeth! Being Indian and having such a non-Indian life it appealed to me as well. But I agree - if we disliked authors for their politics I don't think we'd get very far at all.