Naipaul emerges, insults writers, presumably re-commences retirement

V.S. Naipaul, who simultaneously announced the death of the novel and his own retirement in 2004, has reemerged to declare the utter worthlessness of most fiction written in English. A rundown of his recent assessments:

  • Henry James is “the worst writer in the world.”
  • Thomas Hardy is “an unbearable writer” who “doesn’t know how to compose a paragraph.”
  • Dickens is repetitive.
  • Jane Austen was a “terrible vapid woman.”
  • Hemingway was “so busy being an American” that he “didn’t know where he was.”

    Several years ago, Naipaul alleged that E.M. Forster wrote “rubbish” and spent time in India so he could seduce “a few garden boys.” He called James Joyce’s writing “incomprehensible.” And he criticized Wole Soyinka and R.K. Narayan, and expressed particular lack of interest in reading Salman Rushdie’s work.

    Naipaul isn’t crazy about most Indian writers; in 2002 he participated in a “literary festival’s discussion on whether Indian authors should write in English” and said, while “shaking with rage,” “this thing about colonialism, this thing about gender oppression, the very word oppression wearies me…. I think it is because banality irritates me.”

    Former Naipaul protégé Paul Theroux has characterized Naipaul’s tirades as “a ‘familiar’ publicity stunt.”

    “We who know Naipaul understand that gratuitous outbursts such as this nearly always precedes the appearance of a Naipaul work.”

    “In spirit, it is like a boxer’s frenzy of boasting and threats before an important match: in part a species of self-promotion in the form of chest- thumping and shouted abuse, in part a suggestion of tactics,” he says, comparing the “rant” to “explosive abuse you get from someone whose Valium has worn off.”

    (First link via A&L Daily.)


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