Thursday, June 02, 2011

VA Naipaul Is a Fool

OK, so anyway, there’s really nothing that needs to be said about the following article. Naipaul seems to be able to indict himself well enough.

I would suggest everyone send him a book by a female writer of their choice, but it would do no good. He seems to be one of those types of people who need to manufacture the worst kind of reductionism. Talent is not distributed by gender or race. But we know that. I hope that someone pours a drink over his head at the next mucky-muck Nobel soirée.

Anyway, just in case you didn’t see it:

VS Naipaul finds no woman writer his literary match – not even Jane Austen
Nobel laureate says there is no female author whom he considers his equal

Amy Fallon The Guardian, Thursday 2 June 2011

VS Naipaul, no stranger to controversy, has lashed out at female authors, singling out Jane Austen for particular criticism. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe

VS Naipaul, no stranger to literary spats and rows, has done it again. This time, the winner of the Nobel prize for literature has lashed out at female authors, saying there is no woman writer whom he considers his equal – and singling out Jane Austen for particular criticism.

In an interview at the Royal Geographic Society on Tuesday about his career, Naipaul, who has been described as the "greatest living writer of English prose", was asked if he considered any woman writer his literary match. He replied: "I don't think so." Of Austen he said he "couldn't possibly share her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world".

He felt that women writers were "quite different". He said: "I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me."

The author, who was born in Trinidad, said this was because of women's "sentimentality, the narrow view of the world". "And inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too," he said.

He added: "My publisher, who was so good as a taster and editor, when she became a writer, lo and behold, it was all this feminine tosh. I don't mean this in any unkind way."

The criticism from the author is unsurprising. Naipaul is no stranger to criticism. In the past Naipaul has criticised India's top female authors for their "banality" on the topic he is best known for writing about, the legacy of British colonialism.

He also had a long-running feud with US travel writer and author Paul Theroux.

Their 30-year friendship came to a sudden end, after Theroux discovered that a book he gave Naipaul had been put on sale for £916. The comments were dismissed by the Writers Guild of Great Britain, which said it would not "waste its breath on them". Literary journalist Alex Clark said: "Is he really saying that writers such as Hilary Mantel, AS Byatt, Iris Murdoch are sentimental or write feminine tosh?"

Literary critic Helen Brown described them as "arrogant, attention-seeking".He should heed the words of George Eliot – a female writer – whose works have had a far more profound impact on world culture than his."


At 6/02/2011 1:50 PM, Blogger a.c.b. said...

wow. i nearly missed that. how did i miss that?! thanks for posting this.

At 6/02/2011 6:04 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

It's the sort of absurd thing that not a single writer, no matter how sexist or megalomaniacal, would agree with him on. He’s pretty far out to sea. But of course, if attention is all he wants, then, well, as Charlie Sheen would say: “Winning.”

At 6/02/2011 7:20 PM, Anonymous Jeannine Hall Gailey said...

Naipaul versus Margaret Atwood in a anti-sentimentality throwdown: Atwood would kick his ass so hard.

At 6/02/2011 7:45 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


I agree, and even if you're wrong about the outcome of this single fight, you're still right, because after Atwood, there would be Virginia Woolf, and on and on.

His position is not just indefensible, but downright infantile, acting out behavior.

At 6/02/2011 10:43 PM, Blogger Supervillainess said...

Exactly, it's the whole legacy of female-anti-sentimentality, to which I hope to make a modest contribution!

At 6/03/2011 12:08 AM, Blogger a.c.b. said...

john - you know, when i was reading the article i did think, "boy, aren't you a bit full of yourself", so the sheen comparison hits the nail on the head. :)

At 6/04/2011 4:55 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

Persuasion is probably my favorite novel

At 6/04/2011 6:25 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


The importance of keeping the writer and the work as far awy from each other as possible.

At 6/04/2011 10:53 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

Is Captain Wentworth Tom Lefroy? Is Anne's opinion of Bath the same as Austen's? The self-revelatory nature of Persuasion is curious when you consider that Austen abandoned The Watsons because it was too autobiographical. She must have known that Anne would remind her family of her; nevertheless, she finished a slightly rough version of the novel. Did sensing her own impending death prompt her to become more confessional? Great fucking book.


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