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The Congo Diary: Why we love to hate VS Naipaul

Dailybhaskar.com | Last Modified - Nov 06, 2012, 06:59 PM IST

The Congo Diary: Why we love to hate VS Naipaul
  • The Congo Diary: Why we love to hate VS Naipaul
    The Congo Diary: Why we love to hate VS Naipaul

    New Delhi: Nobody is spared from the harsh, hard hitting and almost cynical attack from VS Naipaul. Be it his criticism of Muslims or considering women as ‘inferior’ and ‘sentimental’ writers, Naipaul has managed to attract one controversy or another in his more than five-decade-long writing career.

    Recently, during the Mumbai Lit festival VS Naipaul was heavily criticized for his anti-Islam views in his earlier books, by Girish Karnad.

    The winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize for literature and author many famous books like ‘The Congo Diary’, A Hosue for Mr Biswas and ‘The Mystic Masseur’ was crticised by the Indian theatre artist, Girish Karnad He called him ‘tone deaf’ and questioned his awareness about Indian culture.

    However, controversy is not new when it comes to VS Naipaul. The Trinidad based writer has been writing for over five decades about his understanding of various cultures and societies. His works include some world renowned non-fiction work and some hard-hitting books about various societies, especially Islam.

    No one has written as harshly about India as the young Naipaul. His book on India, An Area of Darkness (1964), rake-up controversy after he termed India as an aping civilization with no sense of law. The area of Darkness gives was written by Naipaul after travelling across India for a year.

    In his novel, he terms Indians as ‘dirt’. He quotes, “Indians are dirt and wish to appear as dirt”.

    He felt sorry about Indian Cleanliness and felt that Indians are far removed from reality and obsessed with past and live in past.

    “Poor Indians shit everywhere. Rich ones are busy miming the English before which they were busy miming the Moguls. Anonymous places (the railway station, harbour, etc.) repel him”, he was quoted

    His second book on India, named ‘India-A wounded civilization’, is as offensive as his earlier work. The writer strongly believes that the post-colonial cultures of the developing world are not well adapted to the modern world and are destined to failure as a consequence.

    Both the books created huge controversies in India. His ideas about India raised quite a few eye brows. Naipaul relation with India remained strained for over three decades until he wrote another book, ‘India: A Million Mutinies Now’ (1990). The book was insightful in its vision of India as a land that grows through strife, that his differences with Indian were settled at once.

    VS Naipaul is known equally well for his criticism of Islam as he is known for his literary masterpieces.

    Naipaul invited the wrath of Muslim community after he compared the “calamitous effect" of Islam on the world with colonialism.

    Naipaul fascinated by the Islamic Revolution that shook Iran in late 70s, decided to visit the nation. This was in many ways his first acquaintance with Islam. Later, he wrote a couple of books, ‘Among the believers’ and ‘Beyond Belief’, where he perceives Islam to be a religion that sanctifies rage.

    Year later, in 2001, he launched an all attack on Islamic belief in Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, where he was present to give a reading of his book, ‘Half a Life’. He said that Islam attempts to ‘enslave’ and ‘wipeout’ other cultures. He questioned the philosophy of conversion; arguing that it forces a man to destroy his past and his history.

    “You have to stamp on it, you have to say 'my ancestral culture does not exist, it doesn't matter'," he quoted.

    He described the Prophet as being more dangerous than Karl Marx. Islam, according to him is a racist religion that destroys the individuality of the person and tries to tear it down.

    He has been criticised - especially by disenchanted Trinidadians - as bigoted, self-important, snobbish and lacking in compassion.

    VS Naipaul has been dumped from a major literary event opening in Istanbul after Turkish writers threatened a boycott because of his presence.

    The Turkish poet and philosopher Hilmi Yavuz said Naipaul had “insulted” Muslims. Will the consciences of our writers be at ease when sitting at the same table as VS Naipaul?”, he questioned.

    Naipaul was in the news in 90s for his stance on Babri mosque’s demolition which he described as an act of creative passion. His criticism of Pakistan and his hard line anti-Islam stance in his books was rejected by many intellectuals as one-sided.

    The harsh posture, compelled Salman Rushdie to denounce Naipaul he said that he was a fellow traveler of fascism and disgrace to the Nobel Prize.

    His books received scathing reviews in UK for depicting Africa in poor light. VS Naipaul berated the African people in a manner that cannot be perceived by any right thinking man. According to Naipaul, the African man is trying to ape the Western culture without trying to understanding it.

    The Trinidad writer created another controversy after he termed women writers as inferior and said that women have narrow view of the world. Naipaul also called a book by his former female publisher, "feminine tosh."

    His comments about women, in 2011, compelled Guardian to come up with an online quiz where they presented readers with stanzas from various random books. The readers were then asked to identify the gender of the writer based upon their writings. The result of the survey was immaterial, but it (Naipaul’s comment) did provoke some harsh criticism from all across the world. Some opined that this time VS Naipaul has stretched himself ‘too far’.

    His comment created a huge uproar in the literary community. Reactions and criticism rained on him from all sides. Shobha De termed him as an “Agent Provocateur”, and requested people to ignore him.

    However, much harsher words were awaited from Rupa Gulab, author, she said, Naipaul needs a kick in the pants. Naipaul is just an arrogant f***er and he's always been one.

    Nandita Puri, considered him to be suffering from inferiority complex.

    Tasleema Nasreen was equally vocal in her criticism of the author. Her tweets summed up the entire sentiments.

    "Naipaul is a Male Chauvinist Pig. I feel ------ FATHER of all things MCP."

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Web Title: The Congo Diary: Why we love to hate VS Naipaul
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