Naipaul is controversial. Again.

What else happened while the Babu was awol? Naipaul made provocative and controversial remarks, yes, well, doesn’t he do that all the time? (For the record, he slated: Indian writers (quit boasting, he advised), the new technological civilisation, and yes, he declared, yet again, that the End of the Novel was Nigh.

It doesn’t matter; Sir Vidia,Philip Hensher still loves you. In a piece on judging the Booker, Hensher wrote:

“Worst of all was the passing over of V S Naipaul’s extraordinary and daring Magic Seeds.

If the judges were seriously proposing that a novelist such as Sarah Hall is more worthy of praise than a piece of vintage Naipaul, they must have lost their marbles.”

A piece of vintage Naipaul? A House for Mr Biswas; vintage Naipaul. The Enigma of Arrival, India: A Million Mutinies Now; vintage Naipaul. But Magic Seeds?

This is the novel that sounded tired from page one onwards and went downhill from there. I could cite several reviews, but I’m going to limit myself to two, the first by Mike Philips in the Guardian, who said: “There may be many reasons to admire the body of Naipaul’s writing. This book is not one of them.” Or there’s Paul Bailey, whose review was titled Such a long (and boring) journey: “I wish I could record that Magic Seeds is written with Naipaul’s customary elegance, but I can’t, because it isn’t. The prose is repetitive, set down in a faux-naïf manner that soon irritates. If Willie is the principal character in a third novel, I shall not be following his further progress. Enough is truly enough.”

It seems that Naipaul agrees. I don’t know about the “shocked” audience in Delhi who responded tearfully to the news that the master may not write another novel (hey, didn’t he say that before Half a Life? And after?), but some of us yobbos in the cheap seats were cheering. (Nothing worse than reading an author you once admired and realising that he’s passed beyond the point of greatness to plain vanilla tedium.) And some were, tongue firmly in cheek, thanking Naipaul for not realising that they hailed from Bengal.

Oh, and Bangalore still loves him too.





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