March 31, 2006


Nobel Laureate Rips Ernest Hemingway And Henry James (NY Sun, March 30, 2006)

The 2001 Nobel laureate for literature, Sir V.S. Naipaul, 73, has launched an extraordinary assault upon his fellow writers, including some literary giants Americans hold dear, the BBC reported. [...]

[S]ir V.S. saves the title "the worst writer in the world" for the seemingly innocuous Henry James.

He's oddly wrong about Austen, but the rest is bang on.

Naipaul targets literary icons (Hasan Suroor, 08/03/01, The Hindu)

On the eve of the publication of his new novel Half a Life, he has torn into E.M. Forster, Somerset Maugham, Charles Dickens and James Joyce besides lashing out at the doyen of 20th century economists John Maynard Keynes.

Even R.K. Narayan gets a gentle ticking-off for believing that India is ``eternal'' while the fact, according to Mr. Naipaul, is that it is ``a ruin.'' His most acerbic remarks however are targetted at Forster who, he says, wrote ``rubbish'' and had no idea of India.

In an interview in the latest issue of Literary Review, Mr. Naipaul attacks the author of A Passage to India both for his literary ``pretence'' and his homosexuality. Forster's sole interest in India, he suggests, was to ``seduce'' garden boys.

``He was somebody who didn't know Indian people. He just knew the (royal) court and a few middle-class Indians and the garden boys whom he wished to seduce,'' he tells the interviewer, Mr. Farrukh Dhondy.

A Passage to India, he declares, was ``utter rubbish'' and Forster's views on India's three religions were a mere ``pretence''. ``It's false. It's a pretence. It's utter rubbish,'' he says rubbishing Forster's sentimental impressions of India. He was simply a homosexual who had ``his time in India, exploiting poor people...'' And his friend Keynes was no better, Mr. Naipaul alleges.

``Keynes didn't exploit poor people; he exploited people in the university; he sodomised them and they were too frightened to do anything about it,'' he says accusing Forster and Keynes of setting their work against a background of ``mystery and lies''. [...]

Mr. Naipaul also ridiculed Maugham saying he was now ``part of the dust, part of the imperial dust''. And Dickens ``died from self-parody''.

As for Joyce and Ulysses, he didn't make sense. ``I can't read it...he is not interested in the world''.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 31, 2006 11:29 AM

Gee, not being as much of a "big brain" as some, I must have been mistaken in my enjoyment of Dickens and Maugham (whose longer works are boring, but whose two books of short stories are quite enjoyable)

I like Naipaul, but isn't this sort of like me getting to be a big blogger for a while, and then ripping into Instapundit, OJ & RealClearPolitics.

Take a chill pill, VS. Enjoy life.

(Still seeing everything from the blogger's perspective, David)

Posted by: Bruno at March 31, 2006 11:52 AM

A Turn in ... the Spleen

Posted by: Rick at March 31, 2006 12:35 PM

Poor Sir Vidia is becoming senile.

Posted by: Mörkö at March 31, 2006 1:13 PM

Oops, he hit all Morko's favorites....

Posted by: oj at March 31, 2006 2:47 PM

The 32,750,873,421st version of "There is nothing so wonderful as me."

Posted by: Casey Abell at March 31, 2006 3:15 PM

Orrin, he hit a lot of your faves, too. Dickens got three A+'s from you, Hemingway got one. Forster, James and Hardy all got B's or better for at least some of their books. You already said he was wrong about Austen.

The only two writers you completely agree with Naipaul about are your black beasts Joyce and Keynes, who qualifie as your personal worst writers in the world with all F's. Maughan gets one F but also gets a C+.

Kinda suprised you lie down so meekly to a ridiculously overrated writer who only gets street cred because of his ethnicity. Naipual really is fading into senility.

Posted by: Casey Abell at March 31, 2006 3:52 PM

Sorry for the misspellings. Been a long day.

Posted by: Casey Abell at March 31, 2006 3:55 PM

By the way, of your three reviews of Naipaul himself, only one snuck above a B-. I still think you're an easy grader on the doddering old man.

Posted by: Casey Abell at March 31, 2006 3:59 PM


His criticism of Dickens, that he was repetitive, is obviously right.

Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea is a nice novella, the rest is tripe.

James wrote one good ghost story.

Forster's Passage to India is good for the exact reason that Naipaul lays into him, it reflects the awkward relationship of the Brit to his colonies, like Orwell's Shooting an Elephant.

Hardy was a better poet.

Naipaul is actually best as a non-fiction writer.

Among the Believers is terrific:

Posted by: oj at March 31, 2006 4:02 PM


Yes, his novels are inferior to his non-fiction.

Posted by: oj at March 31, 2006 4:07 PM

There are no "literary giants Americans hold dear."

Posted by: b at March 31, 2006 4:50 PM

Besides Kilroy, you mean.

Posted by: joe shropshire at March 31, 2006 5:06 PM


Let's not lose focus here: the important aspect of this story -- the really wonderful, joyous news -- is that a Nobel laureate just publicly pointed out that James Joyce's books are crap.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at March 31, 2006 5:21 PM

Matt, Good point. The only 20th century guys I still read are Yeats, Auden and Eliot, but must admit I'm 35 years ago.

Posted by: jdkelly at March 31, 2006 8:34 PM

Orrin, you shouldn't kowtow to such an overpraised nonentity. Stand up for your opinions. From now on I won't take your reviews seriously.

Well, actually I never did take them very seriously. They mostly seemed predictably politicized and poorly argued. Sorry for the confession, but it's true.

Posted by: Casey Abell at March 31, 2006 9:44 PM

Casey, but you still read them ...

Posted by: erp at April 1, 2006 8:00 AM


Fret not, no one takes seriously the opinion of someone who thinks Henry James a great novelist.

Posted by: oj at April 1, 2006 8:41 AM