City writers recall Naipaul’s brilliance

V S Naipaul 1932-2018

When Sir V S Naipaul passed away, he left behind a void in the literary world which even his harshest critics will admit to being difficult to fill.

His harsh documentations of migration, exile, colonisation were dark and dreary; his style was beyond par but his writings, coloured by his own experiences, were criticised by many.

They often showcased India, and  Bengaluru, in a negative light. 

City-based writers and literature experts spoke to Metrolife about why Naipaul was known for what he was known for. 

‘Was simply blown away by his humour’

Shinie Antony, writer

“I read Naipaul’s ‘The Mystic Masseur’ long ago and was simply blown away by the humour and language in it. He had a keen sense of dialogue and this coincided with my own interest in authentic speech in fiction.

I did happen to meet him once and that was a mild disappointment. Of course, writers are not entertainers but I found him deliberately rude. It was as if that’s what he really was, and all the rest, the books and laurels, seemed to me a continuation of that basic trait. Like an angry man who monetised his anger.”

‘Naipaul’s writing made one sit up and think’

Mukunda Rao, novelist

“I read V S Naipaul’s work in the 70s. I then wanted to be a writer but writers like Mulk Raj Anand and R K Narayan, though interesting, were not inspiring enough for me.

I read his ‘An Area of Darkness’, a fascinating yet disturbing work. The observations he made very extraordinarily inspiring. His work was in direct contrast with Paul Brunton’s ‘A Search in Secret India’, where he went to ashrams and explored a hidden India. In Naipaul’s writing, India lay on the surface. I wanted to do my PhD on him, but I had problems with his writing after he published ‘India: A Wounded Civilization’. His writing could seem bitter and harsh but it was the kind which made one sit up and think.”

‘He was a lifelong nomad’

Nandita Bose, writer

“I have read ‘India: A Wounded Civilization’ and ‘A House for Mr Biswas’. I’m not a big fan of his writing. But I feel that the whole point of literature is that people can explore what they want by themselves. He is an important writer, someone whose works we should all know about. However, he comes from a particular position which is antithetical to mine. He was someone who admired the Western world and desperately wanted to belong. When he came back to India and visited the Silicon city of India, his idea of what is good, progressive and smart was informed by a Western view. He was quite horrified by what he saw here; he must have imagined the city to be quite like California. It was a common trait of his -- his imaginary pilgrimages would often let him down.”

‘He was a terrific prose writer’

M K Raghavendra, literary scholar

“Of his books, I have read ‘An Area of Darkness’, ‘Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey’ and ‘A Bend in the River’. There are a lot of Indians who believe that they do not belong in the Third World and are actually from the First World; Naipaul was one of those. He was a terrific prose writer. In his work ‘A House for Mr Biswas’, there were long complex sentences and he used commas and semicolons a lot. As he progressed, his sentences became shorter, which sometimes gave a judgemental quality to his writing -- like in ‘Among The Believers...’ Naipaul didn’t understand complexities. He was a sharp writer yet very hasty. In many of his writings, one can feel that he isn’t the thinking type. It seems like he made his peace with India towards the last few years.”

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City writers recall Naipaul’s brilliance

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