V S Naipaul, Paul Theroux end 15-year feud

Nestled in the Welsh countryside, the village of Hay-on Wye is the location of the ongoing festival that features prominent figures from the world of politics, literature, journalism, and the arts.

At his sold-out event yesterday, V S Naipaul charted his development as a writer and his relationship with his family in his 'Letters Between a Father and a Son'.

It was at the Hay Festival that the feud between the two literary - V S Naipaul and Paul Theroux - giants began in 1996. And it was here that they finally shook hands, after what is described as a 'gentle intervention' by writer Ian McEwan.

Naipaul's wife, Nadira, told The Independent: "Paul approached him and said he missed him. It was very gracious and wonderful of him. So that is the end to the literary feud." Will they return to their habit of lunching together? Nadira said: "You never know...It's a strange world."

Theroux spoke at the festival on Saturday, and the organisers, aware of the tensions between the two men, were prepared to keep them at a diplomatic distance from each other on Sunday when Naipaul arrived to speak about his literary career. The Independent reported that such precautions were not needed - Theroux, who was sitting in the artists' area, saw Naipaul arrive.

Also present in the room was McEwan, who reportedly smoothed the way for the rapprochement by assuring Theroux that another approach would not be rebuffed. Theroux then went Naipaul to offer the hand of friendship, which was accepted. The report recalled that Naipaul and Theroux had met in Kampala, Uganda, in 1966.

Naipaul, whose reputation had been sealed by his 1961 book 'A House for Mr Biswas', took Theroux under his wing, and, when the American followed him to Britain, Naipaul introduced him to the London literary scene and nurtured him. However the relationship soured over the years as Theroux became critical of Naipaul's writing and Naipaul distanced himself from his protégé. Theroux's caustic portrait of Naipaul in his memoir 'Sir Vidia's Shadow: A Friendship Across Five Continents' (1998) contrasts with his earlier, gushing portrait in 'VS Naipaul, an Introduction to His Work' (1972).

In 1996, when they were sharing a stage at the Hay Festival with Salman Rushdie, Naipaul refused to acknowledge Theroux. They bumped into each other shortly afterwards in south Kensington, London, but pleasantries were not exchanged. "He wanted to talk to me about it," Naipaul has said. "I was on my way somewhere and could not stop. The conversation was very brief." He advised Theroux then: "Take it on the chin and move on."

In his 1998 book, Theroux described Naipaul as a depressive, a skinflint and a misogynist. Meanwhile, Naipaul called Theroux "a bore" who had overstayed his welcome.

 

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