The sequel to this book (pub. ~1997) is also good though it has some dead chapters ... VS is getting on in years. But then.......check this out....
Naipaul lets rip at 'banality' of Indian women writers
Nobel prize winner's short fuse explodes during debate on colonialism and gender oppression
Fiachra Gibbons, arts correspondent
Friday February 22, 2002
Two of India's leading women writers were yesterday taught a very tough lesson. You must never, ever bore VS Naipaul with trifling matters such as colonialism or the enslavement of your sex.
Sir Vidia, in the land of his ancestors to celebrate his Nobel prize for literature, cut loose after listening to Shashi Deshpande and Nayantara Sehgal - a niece of Nehru, India's first prime minister - debate how gender oppression had affected their work.
As the pair moved on to talk about the harmful influence of English on Indian literature, Naipaul's famously short fuse exploded: "Banality irritates me. My life is short. I can't listen to banality. This thing about colonialism, this thing about gender oppression, the very word oppression wearies me," the 69-year-old Trinidad-born author told a literary festival held to honour him south of New Delhi.
"If writers talk about oppression, they don't do much writing. Fifty years have gone by. What colonialism are you talking about?"
Amid uproar and with Naipaul apparently shaking with fury, the writer and film-maker Ruchir Joshi shouted, "You're being obnoxious!"
The situation was pacified by the poet and novelist Vikram Seth, who allowed Deshpande to reply to his tirade. "What does not affect anybody would be banal to them," she said. "When I was listening to this talk about the anguish of the exile, I was really cool about it," she added in a pointed reference to Naipaul's life in England.
This was not the first - or is it likely to be the last - time that Naipaul's temper or his sharp tongue have got the better of him. His love-hate relationship with India, the land of his fathers, has been trying for both parties.
Many Indians have never forgiven him for the fierce candour of his books about the subcontinent, An Area Of Darkness, and India: A Wounded Civilisation. It did not help that days after becoming a Nobel laureate in October he said no one in India had been intellectual enough to understand the books when they were first published.
He followed that up by railing against the "calamitous effect of Islam on its subject peoples - it was much worse than colonialism", and further outraged liberal Indians by seeming to throw in his lot with the Hindu nationalists of the BJP.
"Islam destroyed India," he said. "There is this ill-informed idea that it was the British, in the short time that they were there, that ruined and defaced all those temples you see. The bitter fact is that the people of India were ill-equipped to face the organised military power of Islam and were destroyed by it.
"The intellectual life of India, the Sanskrit culture, stops at 1000AD. Islam was the greatest calamity that befell it. Now people think only the Muslims built anything but what they brought was a slave culture that lasted in some parts of India until almost the other day.
"To be a Muslim you have to destroy your history, to stamp on your ancestral culture. The sands of Arabia is all that matters. This abolition of the self is worse than the colonial abolition, much worse."
Naipaul said he was not troubled by the way the BJP had appropriated his writing, particularly Among the Believers and Beyond Belief, which were damning about Islam. "I am very glad, I think it is the beginning of self-awareness [in India] which is the beginning of an intellectual life."