VS Naipaul finds no woman writer his literary match – not even Jane Austen

Nobel laureate says there is no female author whom he considers his equal

By Amy Fallon
The Guardian UK, June 02, 2011

Vidia NaipaulVS Naipaul, no stranger to literary spats and rows, has done it again. This time, the winner of the Nobel prize for literature has lashed out at female authors, saying there is no woman writer whom he considers his equal – and singling out Jane Austen for particular criticism.

In an interview at the Royal Geographic Society on Tuesday about his career, Naipaul, who has been described as the “greatest living writer of English prose”, was asked if he considered any woman writer his literary match. He replied: “I don’t think so.” Of Austen he said he “couldn’t possibly share her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world”.

He felt that women writers were “quite different”. He said: “I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me.”

The author, who was born in Trinidad, said this was because of women’s “sentimentality, the narrow view of the world”. “And inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too,” he said.
Full Article : guardian.co.uk

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VS Naipaul’s attack ‘just made me laugh’ says Diana Athill
Former publisher rubbished by Naipaul for writing ‘feminine tosh’ says she is not taking his criticism seriously

26 Responses to “VS Naipaul finds no woman writer his literary match – not even Jane Austen”


  • Beneath contempt, this fake Brahmin, Sir Nye Paul.

    Aren’t you glad the PNM squashed the idea of naming the national library after him? if its re-named for anybody it should be for Mrs. Vere Achong(Romain) who dedicated her life to better library facilities in TnT, and who traained almost every librarian now over 40.

    • Naipaul is known to speak his mind which is quite refreshing. I am quite certain that what he says merits discussion instead of condemnation. Only insecure women will feel the need to condemn his statements.Men approaches subjects from a different angle. I have read several great pieces of caribbean literature written by men, for which I am have a the greatest respect.

      I would kindly ask the “frontish” and condemning Ms. Linda to name me just ONE world famous female caribbean literature writer. If she can’t then she should simply shut up.

  • Phyllis Byam Shand Allfrey

    Priya Balachandran

    Dionne Brand

    Maryse Condé

    Beryl Agatha Gilroy

    Marie-Elena John

    Jamaica Kincaid

    Shani Mootoo

    Elizabeth Nunez

    Jean Rhys

    Edwidge Danticat

    Louise Simone Bennett-Coverley or Miss Lou

    Just to name a few

    • Never read any of their works. Never heard their names until now brilliant idiot. Did anyone of them win the noble prize for literature? Were they given any awards for literature by the Caribbean governments? Please enlighten us.

      • why does the nobel has to be a measuring stick for greatness, VS was great before the nobel. At least for me.

    • Thank you! Very disappointing. But then VS Naipaul was never a humble man.

  • VS was asked his personal views of international women writers in comparison to his style of writing which provokes controversy with gender bias by the UK Guardian reporter. Lo and behold Ms. Edwards gives a political and satirical comment of a PNM decision villifying VS in the process (fake Brahmin and the recognition given to him as a knight and as a Noble Laureate). Certainly, a prophet is not recognized in his own kingdom. Please focus on the issue rather than on the indvidual. Was Patsy Raymond, Doreen Teijmul and Wilma Primus trained under Vere Achong?

  • The statement should not be too surprising coming from someone who really doesn’t care who he is.

  • I have read everything Sir Vidiya has in print Mamoo. Let me tell you where I jumped off his boat. I did not do it in his pieces condemning the land of his birth, nor for failing to acknowledge it in his Nobel speech, nor his pieces condemning India the land of his people, I did not do it based on the way he treated his first wife, but when I read, in A BEND IN THE RIVER, the scene in which his hero, after having sex with a white woman(her race is important, because he equally condemns the mixed blood people of the Congo-Kisangani where the book is set)the protagonist turn, hawks and spits in her vagina, and walks away.I said Khadish for him.
    In all of literature, and I taught the subject for more than thirty years at all levels, no single scene in any book filled me with such disgust. His claim therefore is similar to the attitude of Selim, the main character in Bend…

    Naming the library for him would have been the equivalent of naming a women’s studies program at say Wellesley College, for that idiot of a New York Congressman-Weiner, for showing his Weinie(genetalia) to women and children all over America on his twitter page.

    Some people act with sense in the national interest. I knew it would get a rise out of you. You, and Tman are cut from the same cloth, if not the same person.

    • “In all of literature, and I taught the subject for more than thirty years at all levels, no single scene in any book filled me with such disgust.”

      There is no need for you to rework such a scene in your mind Linda. This is the second time you have referenced that particular scene and use it as a salient point of backwardness in Naipaul’s genre. Literature and literary styles do have an individual accent attached to it, and that is what makes it unique. You are like the Pharisees who strains at a “knat” but ignores the whole complexities of the law. Getting fixated on one point is not a manly determination but it is your womanly emotions that control your reasoning.

      Linda wrote “no single scene in any book filled me with such disgust.” That is an emotional feminine response to a piece written and it lends credulity to Naipaul’s boast… ” He felt that women writers were “quite different”. He said: “I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me.”

  • Sorry Linda, WE are not the same person. In my writings, I do not have a problem with subject-verb agreement.
    With regard to the naming of the POS library, a PNM government would never name a POS library after any Indian, regardless of how deserving.So for me that is a non-issue.
    As far as Naipaul is concerned, he seems to be getting the international attention he craves with his controversial remarks. As a teacher of literature, I am surprised that you are so repulsed by the action of his hero in A BEND IN THE RIVER.Literary works are filled with actions of characters which are equally of even more reprehensible.

  • Eric Williams did not treat his first wife nor his second wife (both of different races) good either, but has a Medical Science complex named after himself by people with a sense in national interest. The policies from Williams were not agreed by all as well as books by VS likewise. The emotive onslaught of a respons from LE leaves me to wonder who has the bigger ego VS or LE? To bring in Weiner in this dialogue does not negate what JFK (airport named after him as well) did with Marilyn Monroe.

  • Cut the crap Loyal Trini, for it is because of Eric Williams that your present female PM , acquired an education ,as opposed to spending most of her life in dung heap of obscurity , as preferred by her elders, while instead married off ,to some illiterate fool,or bare feet, pregnant every other year, having made 25 kids, to service the corn patch in the back yard of Siparia. Just live and let live buddy, and stop comparing apples and oranges, or in our case, sapodilla, or hog plum, yes? You mamoo,T- MAN , and similar neo racial, ungrateful , fake Trini, freaks , should be ashamed of yourself ,for comparing Eric Williams the patriot, and this self loathing , opportunistic ,socially immoral, coward, and obvious phony , called V.S. Here are his claim to fame –
    1.Possessed an ingrain distaste for his European Masters- particularly for how they treated his people ,fortunate to call Trinidad and Tobago their home-yet married, and enjoyed the pleasure of one of their women for decades,even as he lack the guts to condemn any, but willing to transfer his anger, and hatred , to similar VICTIMS in Afrikans. 2. Although obviously anti religious , pushed his alleged Hinduism pride , to the fore for public consumption,when politically convenient ,even to the point of attacking anything across the globe that had a shade of Islam, thus garnering a Noble Prize for his efforts ,then once the chance presented itself, slid like a hungry ,Barackpore Zandolee into Pakistan , to latch on to one of their Muslim women, so as to spend the rest of his pitiful days-hopefully in war torn Karachi,Peshawar ,or Kashmir. 3. As for failing to give a scintilla of credit for the country of birth/ early education, while demanding accolades like his similar , country hating tribal fans, what else is new? As a result , I won’t be too tough on him on that score. His actions, and that of half of our psychologically twisted population,is the prime reasons, why our Twin Republic , would remain a backward, under achieving cesspool of corruption, crimes, and repeated political failures, ennnnt Loyal Trini? Just Kidding , but nevertheless, your call.

  • When I was at UWI, STA; Diana Mahabir, then a young Canadian emigre, was teaching a course in logic which we were required to take. I would suggest that Loyal Trini ask Mrs Mahabir-Wyatt to do a seminar on Non-sequiturs specifically for him/her.

    I fail to see how Eric Williams comes into the argument. I was stating my case against Naipaul. Each person is responsible for how he or she responds to a scene in a novel. All fiction is really faction as it emanates from the heart and soul of the person who creates the scene.

    When once a person has gone to the ancestors, it is a moot point to say what they would or would not have done. They either did or they did not.
    Further to the logic of arguments Loyal Trini, I said Mrs. Achong trained “almost” every librarian. I can’t ask her. She too is no more but I am glad she lived to see Colin Laird’s magnificent building opened and functioning.She was the first Medical Librarian, at the POSGH and once walked across the floor of the old librray on Queen PArk EAst, and the boards broke away under her feet.
    You may ask the people you named, if you are so determined to prove something, I know not what.

  • Further and final comment on Sir Nye Paul, a name I did not give him but which he sometimes claims. Go to Yahoo.com and download Michael Frost on Nipaul, and if you read it, you would see that his characters are him.Cruelty to women is his modus operandi.
    Once again, I tell you folk, I know what I am talking about.

  • Ah, Linda, Linda, so predictable. Your incessant ethnocentricity and eternal PNM-apologist sentiments dwarf any claim you make on behalf of your own intellect, don’t you know. I have literally grown up from a youth to a man observing your letters and commentary, and it hasn’t changed at all. It’s so terribly disappointing. So disappointing.

  • Controversy is Naipaul’s MO. Besides this, I am not sure if he is referring to his style vs their style of writing. He has lived in England for many years but his Trinidad roots had and influence on his style. We must consider also that he is sexist.
    All that I wrote does change my view that he is one of the greawriters our time.

    • Chong wrote “We must consider also that he is sexist.”
      What exactly would in volunteering an opinion make it seems that this man is sexy? I don’t think he is sexy or the sexiest man around but I have been known to be wrong.
      Chong I can’t agree with you on this one.

  • The great writers of the Romantic and Victorian eras indulged in sex, sexism, drugs and madness. None of these foibles made them lesser writers. Even today we relish in their brilliance as we study their literature in every learning institution in the universe.
    The failings of VS do not make him a lesser talent. We should recognize and comprehend the idiosyncracies of creative geniuses.

  • “The pen is mightier than the sword” W.O.R.D.S.is an anagram of S.W.O.R.D.Sometimes they(words)cut like a sword.It is extremely enjoyable to read the various “points of view” by the contributors of this blog.Omit the “musings” of race.About twenty years ago my “good morning” at a lawyer’s office was met with the”are you from Trinidad?”To which I replied “oui”After all the formalities were finished a female staff member added “you are from the same country as V S Naipaul”Her smile,conversations,and(most significantly)her “body language” suggested that she met,and “enjoyed” the company of the Nobel Laureate.My unspoken thought “wow! the brother really(smile)gets around.” Eventually,this lawyer together with another represented me at a human rights issue which took three years to be heard by an Adjudicator.We won the judgment.It was always a delight(smile) to visit that office for “briefings”

  • Well said Swordfish. I had the pleasure to meet and hold discussions with Naipaul, Eric Williams and Capildeo and I am always proud to be labelled a fellow countryman with distinction. What they say are so refreshing and as you say their writings are a reflection of their thoughts. The amazing things are the perceptions and high regards most foreigners hold of these gentlemen compensates for the shortfall and recognition we locals attribute towards them. I remember a Professor Cameron at the Lubrication Dept. of the University of London that referred to Capildeo as Cap and the high and utmost regards he had for our guy. At the requiem service that was held for Cap at Chalk Farm, London, I was ‘stunned’ to see the accomplishments and recognition paid to him by foreigners. For information, Erica Williams lived a few blocks away from Cap at Clapham. Each one of us bring strengths and weaknesses to the table. Some of us are successful/failures in our domestic affairs and/or in our careers but that does not take away from the distinctive personalities of the respective individuals. What amazes me are the rants that are waged by some bloggers which are not much different from what you hear at a street corner in T&T. Diana Mahabir wrote an open and complimentary letter concerning Winston Dookeran in context of world leaders last week in the print media and I am 100% agreement with her as well. We need to elevate our statesmen to excellence and not precipitate them into decline.

  • V.S. Naipaul whose style I admire speaks this way because he has not been challenged. Let him read Sister Lydia’s novels and he will change his mind. I challenge him! Sister Lydia

  • Mamoo, you’re an idiot. I AM a woman, I have gien birth vaginally twice, so pardon me for being disgusted at someone who is considered one of the finest writers of the English language, and creates a shitty scene like that. I have a standard of behaiour to which I have adhered for many years. It is that I would remove from my presence people who behave in a certain way. I would not invite such a being to my house nor to any space other than planet earth that I jointly share. The creator of the scene, the writer, is the actor in the scene. You are talking here with a writer who wrestled with a scene in one of her books where the hero had to escape from a difficult situation, leaving a helpless old woman in need of attention. I stopped working on the book for a year, to create a page where he could do what he had to do, and still retain the qualities I valued in a hero.One page! So, yes, my standards are high. I no longer read Naipaul. I stopped teaching his work which I had introduced to my program.I could not subject the young women I was teaching to reading a scene like that. That it came in one of his ater works was all the more horrible. Yes I have rferrd to it before, and if ever he comes up for any recognition in this place where I live, I will hold a press conference and read that part of the book in objection to his recognition. OK? So now you know.

  • I like the way Edward Said trashed him in ‘Covering Islam’. Naipaul is not popular in Trinidad, only to those young ones who are made to use his books and who know little about him.

  • VS Naipaul does Trinidad a disservice

    By Richard Sudan
    guardian.co.uk, Thursday 10 February 2011

    The Caribbean island of Trinidad has produced no shortage of notable figures – from great thinkers such as its first prime minister Eric Williams and the social theorist CLR James, to legendary sports personalities such as the Olympic gold medal winner Hasely Crawford, the cricketer Brian Lara and the sprinter Ato Boldon.

    The nation’s diverse cultural makeup stems from its colonial past, with a population largely of Indian and African descent. One of the most recognisable sons of Trinidad is the writer and Nobel laureate VS Naipaul. In 2008 Naipaul was listed 7th in the Times’s list of the greatest postwar British writers. He was knighted in 1989 and received the Nobel prize for literature in 2001.

    His work draws from his experience of living in Trinidad. There is no doubting Naipaul’s mastery of the English language and his ability to weave compelling narratives. But what becomes overwhelming when delving into the depths of his prose is a dark undercurrent of racism – an almost barefaced contempt for the people of his own country. This is not new and certainly not unique to Naipaul.
    Full Article : guardian.co.uk

  • Anyone still doubting Naipaul’s attitude should read the only piece he wrote about an Afro Trinidadian.Its an essay called B. Tennyson, the B is for Black. Then compare this to the paens of delight in Walcott’s Nobel Lecture as he describes Felicity Village, and Walcott only adoopted Trinidad as his home. Muniver Cheevy was born in the wrong century. Nye Paul was born in the wrong skin, to the wrong people, in the wrong place. Poor fella.

    I love it when trinicenter.com brings in these relevant pieces into the debate. The wider view is so refreshing.

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