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

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    Registered User Seawall's Avatar Seawall is offline
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    The Congo Diary: Why we love to hate VS Naipaul

    A$$hole Nailpaul taking some much deserved heat.

    The Congo Diary: Why we love to hate VS Naipaul
    [IMG]naipaul.jpg (199×299)[/IMG]

    This article on the recent controversy surrounding V. S. Naipaul appeared in India’s Daily Bhaskar.

    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.”

    For the original report go to The Congo Diary: Why we love to hate VS Naipaul -
    "Every onlooker is either a coward or a traitor." — Frantz Fanon

    “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.” Frederick Douglass

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    Registered User Seawall's Avatar Seawall is offline
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    Naipaul on ‘“the indigestibility of Muslims” and their propensity towards violent conflict, which makes them threatening.’


    o Naipaul, Hindu militancy is a corrective to the past. He therefore rejects the possibility of Islam reconciling with other religions in the subcontinent

    “There was in India now what didn’t exist 200 years before: a central will, a central intellect, a national idea,” wrote Vidiadhar S. Naipaul in 1990 in India: A Million Mutinies Now, his third book on the land of his forefathers. Sir Vidia’s construction of the Indian nation, his views on certain major episodes in contemporary history, his interpretation of Islam, and the role of minorities in secular India have always been controversial. Last week, they came under attack again, this time from Girish Karnad. Since then, some have rushed to Naipaul’s defence, others to Karnad’s. As a historian, I too would like to join the debate.

    To remind readers, Naipaul’s ancestors left India in the early 1880s as indentured labourers for the sugar estates of Guyana and Trinidad. He returned to India with An Area of Darkness, advertised as ‘tender, lyrical, (and) explosive.’ Thereafter, he chronicled the histories of a wounded civilisation and a million mutinies in India. In between, he aimed salvos at Islam not once but twice, in laboured projects.


    Naipaul wholly subscribes to the views of Samuel P. Huntington, a controversial American political scientist who earned his reputation by arguing that the New World Order is based on patterns of conflict and cooperation founded on cultural distinctions and identifications. He talked of “the indigestibility of Muslims” and their propensity towards violent conflict, which makes them threatening.

    Naipaul too warns readers of Islamic ‘parasitism,’ and endorses the Orientalist belief that Islam as a coherent, transnational, monolithic force has been engaged in a unilinear confrontational relationship with the West. His essentialist reading of history allows him to sustain the myth of an inherent hostility between two antagonistic sides.

    I am not qualified to judge Naipaul’s standing in the literary world, but I have no doubt in my mind that he is ignorant of the nuances of Islam and unacquainted with the languages of the people he speaks to. He records and assesses only what he sees and hears from his interpreters. In the most literal sense, he finds the cultures indecipherable, for he cannot transliterate the Arabic alphabet. He had known Muslims all his life in Trinidad, but knew little of Islam. Its doctrine did not interest him; it didn’t seem worth inquiring into; and over the years, in spite of travel, he has added little to the knowledge gathered in his childhood.

    He continues to subscribe to the illogical mistrust of Muslims he had been taught as a child: a particular greybeard Muslim, described in An Area of Darkness, has come to embody ‘every sort of threat.’ Much like Nirad Chaudhuri, who was guilty of disregarding common sense to feed his own petty prejudices towards the Muslim communities, Naipaul’s encounters with them “are suffused with a sense of youthful bigotries.”

    Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey is permeated with the sentiment that Islam sanctifies rage — rage about faith, political rage, and that Muslim societies are rigid, authoritarian, uncreative, and hostile to the West. In Indonesia, he runs into Imamuddin who confirms him in the stereotype. In Iran, Behzad leaves him convinced that, “now in Islamic countries there would be the Behzads who, in an inversion of Islamic passions, would have a vision of society cleansed and purified, a society of believers.” In Pakistan, he reminds us of the power of religion and the hollowness of secular cults in a fragmented country, economically stagnant, despotically ruled, with its gifted people close to hysteria.

    In most of the description, otherwise nicely woven into a coherent story, there is hardly any reference to the debilitating legacy of colonial rule. The civilised, innovative, and technologically advanced West stands out as a vibrant symbol of progress and modernity, whereas the Muslim societies Naipaul encounters, despite their varying experiences and trajectories, are destructive, inert, and resentful of the West. With Naipaul relegating colonialism and imperial subjugation of Muslim societies to the background, the West appears an open, generous and universal civilisation.

    In fact, it is the West that is consistently portrayed as exploited by lesser societies resentful of its benign, or at worst natural, creativity: “Indeed,” as scholar Rob Nixon points out, “Naipaul is so decided in his distribution of moral and cultural worth between the cultures of anarchic rage and the ‘universal civilization’ that he ends up demonizing Islam as routinely as the most battle-minded of his Islamic interlocutors demonize the West.”

    Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions among the Converted People (1998), chooses Islamic bad faith as its theme, portraying “the same primitive, rudimentary, unsatisfactory and reductive thesis” that the Muslims having been converted from Hinduism, must experience the ignominy of all converted people. In India: A Million Mutinies (1990), the 1857 revolt is regarded as the last flare-up of Muslim energy until the agitation for a separate Muslim homeland. So far so good. But when Naipaul finds the Lucknow bazaars expressing the faith of the book and the mosque, for example Aminabad, a crowded marketplace, serving the faith, it becomes too much to swallow.


    Two years after A Million Mutinies, Naipaul defends the destruction of the Babri Masjid by calling it “an act of historical balancing.” “Ayodhya,” he reportedly told a small gathering at the BJP office in 2004, “was a sort of passion … Any passion has to be encouraged. I always support actions coming out of passion as these reflect creativity.” Whose passion? Of those Muslims who, despite the bitterness since December 1992, still weave the garlands used in the temple and produce everything necessary for dressing the icons preparatory to worship?

    The fraternity of writers to which Naipaul belongs strongly contests not only his reading of the calamitous effect of Islam, but also his virtual justification of vandalism in the name of Islam. Salman Rushdie and others have written with infinitely greater sympathy and comprehension, and cultivated a distinctly secular point of view which had grown out of a reaction against Partition. Many others write convincingly about Islam as a living and changing reality, what Muslims mean by it is constantly changing because of the particular circumstances of time and place. They study it in its historical reality, without value judgments about what it ought to be.

    There is however no place for these sentiments in Naipaul’s jaundiced views. To him, Hindu militancy is a necessary corrective to the past, a creative force. He therefore rejects the possibility of Islam, a religion of fixed laws, working out reconciliation with other religions in the subcontinent. This is, in short, the clash of civilisations theory.


    Girish Karnad is right. Naipaul is as ill-informed about India as Huntington was about the world outside the western hemisphere. One more related point. He talks of a fractured past solely in terms of Muslim invasions and conveniently forgets the grinding down of the Buddhist-Jain culture during the period of Brahmanical revival. He fumes and frets even though a fringe element alone celebrates the vandalism of the early Islamists who were driven more by the desire to establish the might of an evangelical Islam than to deface Hindu places of worship. With anger, remorse, and bitterness becoming a substitute for serious study and analysis, Naipaul’s plan for India’s salvation collapses like a pack of cards.

    Hence the devastating enunciation of his Beyond Belief by Edward Said: “Somewhere along the way Naipaul, in my opinion, himself suffered a serious intellectual accident. His obsession with Islam caused him somehow to stop thinking, to become instead a kind of mental suicide compelled to repeat the same formula over and over. This is what I’d call an ‘intellectual catastrophe of the first order’.”

    In the recent debate over Karnad’s remarks, several analysts have considered Naipaul’s interpretation of Islam as valid. I take issue with them. I believe writers like him widen the existing chasm between the Muslim communities and the followers of other religions. We need writers, poets and publicists who create mutual understanding and interfaith dialogue rather than create distrust and promote intolerance.

    Peter Geyl reminded us that the historian should be interested in his subject for its own sake, he should try to get in touch with things as they were, the people and the vicissitudes of their fortunes should mean something to him in themselves. “Let Colour Fill the Flowers, Let Breeze of Early Spring Blow,” wrote the Urdu poet, Faiz Ahmad Faiz.

    If ever Naipaul wants to write a travelogue on Muslim countries, the sense of Islam as something more than words in texts, as something living in individual Muslims, must emerge from his pen.
    "Every onlooker is either a coward or a traitor." — Frantz Fanon

    “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.” Frederick Douglass

  3. #3
    Registered User Steupz's Avatar Steupz is offline
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    Apr 2009
    You can't add much to this. He's an old, wife-beating cvnt of a genius. You take what you can and condemn the rest.

  4. #4
    Notchilous ladyrastafari's Avatar ladyrastafari is offline
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    Maison de L'Amitie, Palm Beach
    i am a little suprised that salman rushdie denounced him, given that he had a fatwa called upon himself for his lovely ode to Islam.... the satanic verses..
    Never waste your time trying to explain who you are to people who are committed to misunderstanding you.

    Velvet Glove. Iron Fist

    mi style still sharp .....u a A-Minor and dem a B-Flat

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