My favorite Naipaul story has sexist undertones. My mother doesn’t like me arguing when my father is driving. This is not because that’d distract him. She just doesn’t like it. She usually changes the subject or turn silent when I argue. Or she looks here and there. When I ask why, she wouldn’t answer, or say that she knows I’m wrong. Women hate arguments. Usually, when their husbands debate me on some abstract topic, women ask them to stop. They won’t say this, but they see debates as a sign of conflict. It took me so many years to see this. Continue Reading
“This is somebody for whom the act of creation, the act of writing, is always the most important thing in his life. Hence, he is willing to sacrifice anybody and anything, if he thinks it is going to push him further to becoming a great writer. So every relationship is subordinated to that, every friendship tends to be cut off and people seem to disappear from his life. If you say the relationship with Margaret, his lover for twenty-four years is very disturbing, it is probably the most disturbing thing of all I had to face when writing the book. Sexually charged and physically violent but despite that she wants the relationship to continue. One of the most disturbing things is that she has every opportunity to break off the relationship but she comes back all the way from Argentina to England to be with him in order to be mistreated. That is something very unhappy and disturbing about that part.”
I do not understand this. Naipaul is very much on the top of his profession. Perhaps, she did not want to leave him. This is not much of a puzzle. Why is it not probable, even obvious that she genuinely preferred Naipaul to the loser next-door? I prefer Andrea Jeremiah to an average woman. Even if Andrea Jeremiah mistreats me, I would still prefer her to an ordinary woman. Seriously.
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.” Continue Reading