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Thursday, April 24, 2008

I certainly will not buy another book by this egomaniac. - Yasmin on Naipaul

This year Naipaul went to Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda for the Commonwealth Book Prize. He was last there in the mid-Sixties, when the university, where I studied literature, was among the best in the world. I saw him then with my lecturer, Paul Theroux, extraordinary writers but both congenitally gloomy. Yet I loved the work of both. Naipaul's A House for Mr Biswas was the first novel I had ever read on the lives of diaspora Indians, people like my ancestors, taken from their homelands by the British to work fields, build railways and run small shops. His family ended up in Trinidad, mine in East Africa. Since then, his books have got increasingly bigoted and nasty; he was moved more by hate than love, and an ugliness repeatedly broke through his beautifully written prose. The man and the writer are not as easily separated as critics would have us believe. Writers don't have to be saints but they do have to have empathy and live as civilised beings within the rules that apply to us all. What would we do if we found Richard Branson beat his mistress and drove his wife to death? Or if the BBC's director general spoke of his addiction to paid sex? Artists are part of our world and must be judged as others are. They cannot claim immunity from decency. I certainly will not buy another book by this egomaniac. The literary cabal can protest all it wants but Naipaul deserves the contempt many of us now feel for him. Yasmin on Naipaul [thanks YA]


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