I have never read VS Naipaul, but this passage from the New Republic is striking:
Naipaul, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001, is known for what one commentator described as a “terrifying honesty”—but not so much for his sensitivity. As his first wife, Patricia Hale, battled breast cancer, Naipaul left her alone for long periods, carrying out serious affairs with other women. When Hale was temporarily in remission, in 1994, Naipaul discussed his past visits to prostitutes in an interview with The New Yorker. “I think she had all the relapses after that,” he told his official biographer, Patrick French. “All the remission ended.” Of her death two years later, he added, “It could be said that I killed her. It could be said. I feel a little bit that way.” The day after the cremation, Naipaul invited Nadira, a Pakistani journalist, to move into the Wiltshire home he had shared with Hale.
“I must thank Nadira for bringing Augustus into my life,” Naipaul continues. He is visibly upset, and I ask when the cat passed away. “This last September,” he replies. It is October 1, and I offer a cliché about time healing all wounds. “No, no, the previous September 26th,” he explains, sounding deeply wounded. “A year ago. The terrible part of it is that people suggest to me that I get a new cat, that I invite this new cat into the home I shared with Augustus. As if this one should just be replaced so soon. It shows a lack of understanding.”
“She asked about your dog, Pussy Cat, and when I told her she had died, Ayn said, ‘Now that I feel sorry about. I know how much he loved Pussy Cat.’ I was stunned. I said, ‘You express sympathy about Pussy Cat and say nothing about the death of his wife Patrecia?’ She glowered at me and did not answer. I didn’t care what kind of genius she might have been, or how much she might have been hurt by you. To me, this lack of simple humanity was sickening. I wondered: What am I doing here? Everything Nathaniel and other people have told me about the dark side of her is true. I must remember this about her – because I feel a liking for her. I was caught up in the drama of our encounter, just as I think she was.”
“‘You see, Ayn,’ I said to her. ‘If Nathaniel had spoken of those years primarily as pain, or if he had spoken of you primarily in the negative, there would be no reason for me to be here.