There is much to say about V.S. Naipaul.
Some grand. Some not so grand.
His reaction towards women writers strongly provoked me. It made me think long and hard on whether I wanted to give space to a man with such misogynist attitudes towards women writers.
In reading his essays Literary Occasions, and the various interviews he gave I came to understand how great a literary giant he is and that, if I was to write this post, I needed to separate V.S. Naipaul, the man from V.S. Naipaul, the writer.
Naipaul the man
Women writers “unequal to me” says V S Naipaul
Such is the headline in The Bookseller where Naipaul goes on to say, “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.”
Lylia M. Alphone, the senior editor at Yahoo responded by asking readers whether they could tell whether certain paragraphs were written by men or women.
See if you too can tell whether a book is written by a man or a woman by taking this fun test.
Naipaul has not only been criticized for his misogynist comments but his biographer, Patrick French, portrayed him as racist as well.
Naipaul the Writer
For the first four days it rained. I could hardly see where I was. Then it stopped raining and beyond the lawn and outbuildings in front of my cottage I saw fields with stripped trees on the boundaries of each field; and far away, depending on the light, glints of a little river, glints which sometimes appeared, oddly, to be above the level of the land.
The opening of his masterpiece The Enigma of Arrival.
V.S. Naipaul has been awarded a number of literary prizes, among them the Booker Prize in 1971 for his novel In a Free State and The Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001.
In 1980 Newsweek put him on the cover with the headline “The Master of The Novel.”
V.S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad (1932) of Indian parents. In his career as a writer he traveled extensively to such places as: India, Pakistan, The Congo, Uganda, The Middle East, Indonesia, South America, The Caribbean and set his novels and non-fiction in these places.
Photographer: Eamonn McCabe
In his blog, India Uncut, Amit Varma writes about VS Naipaul’s Rules for Beginner Writers
1. Do not write long sentences. A sentence should not have more than ten or twelve words.
2. Each sentence should make a clear statement. It should add to the statement that went before. A good paragraph is a series of clear, linked statements.
3. Do not use big words. If your computer tells you that your average word is more than five letters long, there is something wrong. The use of small words compels you to think about what you are writing. Even difficult ideas can be broken down into small words.
4. Never use words whose meaning you are not sure of. If you break this rule you should look for other work.
5. The beginner should avoid using adjectives, except those of colour, size and number. Use as few adverbs as possible.
6. Avoid the abstract. Always go for the concrete.
7. Every day, for six months at least, practice writing in this way. Small words; short, clear, concrete sentences. It may be awkward, but it’s training you in the use of language. It may even be getting rid of the bad language habits you picked up at the university. You may go beyond these rules after you have thoroughly understood and mastered them.