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.”