Naipaul, the usual

Somewhere in this collection of provocative quotes, I suspect Sir Vidia was making a fairly complex argument. Not that you can tell from the story.

“There is no tradition of reading in India. There is no tradition of contemporary literature.”

“Indians have no regard for museums…The idea of a museum is a Western idea. It’s not an Indian idea. The idea is that these things are old, they are finished.”

“Caste is a great internal series of friendly societies and in bad times it kept the country going. But people don’t understand this. It has to be rethought and a new way of looking at it.”

I like Lady Nadira’s answer to a question about whether the Naipauls could live in India: “”Yes, quite happily, if we didn’t have a cat. Our cat is an English cat. It is hard for it to live in India, but we can.” Forget Sir Vidia’s views on caste and Indian literature–when it comes to the issues that really count, the Naipauls have their priorities absolutely right.

And from the NYT, a brief excerpt from John Fowles’ Journals on how Naipaul’s In a Free State won the Booker Prize in 1971:

“It was all a chess game, really. [Philip] Toynbee and I had stopped [Saul] Bellow’s first choice, ‘Goshawk Squadron.’ Bellow and I had stopped Toynbee’s first choice, the Taylor. Bellow and Toynbee had principally stopped my first choice, the Richler. After that, Toynbee and I got a little drunk.”

5 comments

  1. Goshawk Squadron was one helluva book but I’m surprised Bellow liked it! WWI Biggles noir with a hero called Woolley who commands an SE5 squadron. Lovely stuff – lots of sex with nurses and graphic deaths. Also very English.

  2. Not that surprising: Bellow was friends with the chaps who wrote for “Black Mask” and other pulps, read and enjoyed Sinclair Lewis and Sherwood Anderson, and was extremely fond of the American tabloids–so Biggles noir would have fitted in. If you have the book, how come you’ve never lent it to me?

  3. Naipaul says a great deal that is inflammatory, but he is also, to my mind, as good a writer as there is. For me that fact is irreducible, and, at the same time, is no excuse for some of the stuff he says in interviews.

  4. Do the manual shit cleaners find the Hindu society friendly? If not then the great intellctual Naipaul is in the deep immutable pool of non-understanding ! His significant social understanding needs some brushing up which might help in preventing the unintended fall of his internationally acclaimed observations .May be he may start from first or second grade.He should not make some dreamy statement.

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